Minimal ‘Macbeth’ Makes Huge Impact

We opened last night.  The first review is in, penned by freelance journalist, George Rawlinson.

Minimal ‘Macbeth’ Makes Huge Impact 

By George Rawlinson

Oh, go on, say it. You’d rather sit and watch paint dry than sit through a staging of Macbeth.

Well, you obviously don’t know much about Janus Theatre. Or one of Shakespeare’s most enduring and evocative plays. And you certainly weren’t in attendance on opening night at the Elgin Art Showcase, where an exquisitely performed production of Macbeth proved that a gimmick-free, fast-paced, modern-dress adaptation is indeed possible. More than that, director Sean Hargadon has done this without compromising any of the tragedy’s verbal grandeur, imbued treachery or haunting passion.

His Macbeth, in fact, is a richly metaphoric formation of humankind’s darkest moments and motivations. In other words, it’s really good.

And while it’s an extremely strong production throughout, there are several short scenes that raise it into the must-see stratosphere of terrific theater. The first involves the dark prophecy that surrounds Macbeth—a prophecy delivered by three superbly sinister sisters, typically cast as witches. That one scene alone is worth the price of admission. But be prepared, it’s more than a little frightening, even for someone who has seen about a dozen different adaptations of Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy, running seventy minutes on opening night at the Elgin Art Showcase. The second scene centers around the psychic unraveling of the lead character and his wife, Lady Macbeth, brilliantly played by Sarafina Vecchio, whose bold, beautiful performance inspires a vision of preening stylization and sexually charged attitude.

Hargadon has a number of exceptional actors in his cast, including Laurie Faith Gibson-Aiello, Angela Bend, Dan Hogan, Luke Donia, Robert McConnell, Caleb Donat and Tony Aiello as Macduff.

Adam Schulmerich, as the title character, moves through the play with the force of a blistering firestorm. It’s an ultimately deadly blaze, but perhaps purifying in the most mature sense of the word. From Shakespeare to the street corner, in life you ultimately get what you give. And Macbeth certainly got what he gave.

Some say that Macbeth is the Mount Everest of the Shakespearian landscape. Whether it is or isn’t doesn’t matter much here. What does matter is Schulmerich’s performance. We watch without blinking as he spirals into madness. His delivery of Shakespeare’s narrative is both intelligent and intense.

Adding atmosphere to the minimalist staging is Andy Murschel’s lighting, along with precise choreography by John Tovar and Dawn Arnold, including some very, very realistic fight scenes.

The Elgin Art Showcase has the feel of a storefront theater. The action in Macbeth literally occurs right at your feet. You can almost reach out and grab one of the daggers used in the play. It’s one of the great bonuses that come with attending a Janus Theatre production. There are many more, but you’ll have to discover those for yourself.  

IF YOU GO:     

Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Performed by Janus Theatre Company
Running Tine: 70 minutes
Through November 14
Elgin Art Showcase, 164 Division St
Reservations: 847-841-1713

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