Two Minutes' Traffic: Macbeth, Folger Theatre

I admit, I thought I was done with Macbeth. Seen it, read it, seen it again, rewatched the Maccers-focused second season of Slings and Arrows again with a friend, and was pretty much unmoved by the last few productions that everyone else raved about.  As is ever the case, however, you put the right artists in the same room with a good idea and magic can still, appropriately enough, happen.

Photo by Brittany Diliberto, Bee Two Sweet.
Clockwise from left: Rachel Montgomery, Ethan Watermeier, Emily Noël, and Louis Butelli.

For Robert Richmond's production of Macbeth at the Folger, the artistic team includes not only the musicians of the Folger Consort, but favorites Kate Eastwood Norris, Ian Merrill Peakes, and of course, William Davenant? This production uses Davenant's version of Shakespeare's text, with music of the period by John Eccles and others provided by the Consort (and famously sung by the three witches, played here by Emily Noël, Rachael Montgomery, and Ethan Watermeier).  Tony Cisek's design supports the production's concept of taking place in a Restoration nightmare version of Bedlam.  The Bedlam frame doesn't quite hang together and when it falls apart under scrutiny it can be a distraction, but it's a blip in the midst of a strange and beguiling evening.

Using the Davenant adaptation shakes up our expectations, making us listen for what's new (expanded subplots for the Macduffs) and what's strange (hearing Shakespeare's text altered at key moments by the adaptation is striking, and gives a greater appreciation for the original choices). It's a beautiful and unnerving night at the theatre–exactly what a Macbeth should be.


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