Macbeth | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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MACBETH, Oddlife Theater Company, at Bailiwick Arts Center, and MACBETH, at Barat College. Any staging of the Scottish tragedy sinks or soars with the Macbeths: despite its tragic sprawl and bloody spectacle, the play belongs entirely to the title tyrant and his instantly corruptible hellmate.

Oddlife Theater's staging unfortunately doesn't trust the text, though this debut production is stalwartly traditional, with a minimal set, the usual Scottish medieval wear, and few cuts (too few). Director Kurt Ehrmann says he intends to explore the evil in Macbeth--which makes David Solovieff's sporadically soft-spoken delivery a surprising choice. Solovieff plays the character as if Macbeth's better self refused to abandon his soul; when it finally does, he shrinks where other Macbeths expand. The Hamlet-like result is intermittently intriguing but conveys no urgency, continuity, or chills. Likewise unvarying in volume or approach is Kirsten Fitzgerald's Lady Macbeth, wrapping every line in portentous gloom. She works overtime to preserve a spell she never cast in the first place.

Except for Ned Mochel's ardent Banquo, Phil Gigante's fifth-act Macduff, and Lynette Gaza's gentlewoman, the cast members reveal problems with projection or passion. This staging's gusto comes from Mochel's fight scenes at the beginning and end--if only that energy had infused the acting.

Oddlife's Macbeth may be a saga of lost opportunities, but the Barat College production surges with sound and fury and signifies much. (It's also free.) Karla Koskinen's handsome open-air staging is as energetically barbaric as Linda Roethke's warrior costumes, pairing an unrelenting plot with unstoppable action.

Raw and hungry, Craig Spidle's Macbeth tantalizes us with the possibility that, like Banquo, he'll let fate take its course. Goaded by Laura Jones Macknin's deliberate, diabolical Lady Macbeth, however, he pushes himself beyond the "sticking point" of his faltering courage. Spidle pickles this monster in savage guilt, spitting out self-disgust in "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow," an elegy for evil. Tensile support comes from Frank Nall's strategically contrasted Banquo, Chuck Likar's hapless, affable Duncan, Aaron Carter's agony-ridden Macduff, and especially Melissa Carlson's Lady Macduff, as heartbreaking in her innocence as she is in her suffering.

Not everything here fuels the spell. Director Koskinen can make a pause powerful, but she can't resist lifting lines out of context and echoing them provokingly. Repeating "God's benison go with you, and with those / That would make good of bad, and friends of foes!" can't make this wishful thinking seem a pronouncement by the Delphic oracle.

--Lawrence Bommer

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