Push/Pull Theater Company’s production of Macbeth is tight, literally and metaphorically. The action – and there’s a lot – takes place in Fort Fringe on a stage that looks about 12 by 16 feet with a ceiling 10 feet above. The cast of 17 flies through the script, delivering the lines with intensity and transitioning seamlessly from scene to scene. It’s tight in a bare-bones way – cleverly using a minimal number of costume elements and props, and it’s tight, meaning cool. The show mixes Capoeria with Shakespeare to deliver a performance that is decidedly contemporary without butchering a text written in the first years of the 1600s.
The production opens with witches played by Charlene V. Smith, Kristen Garaffo and Alex Mandell. They are creepy and conniving, all dressed in black with the women carrying wing-like capes that look like props used by Loie Fuller. They seem possessed, and appear intermittently throughout the production as these sultry spirits.
David Winkler in the title role is captivating: beginning as a seemingly decent guy and quickly morphing into a murderous maniac. When Banquo, played by Lee Liebeskind, is killed and then appears as a ghostly vision to Macbeth, their interaction is fantastic. Liebeskind embodies a kind of supernatural aura and Winkler freaks out convincingly.
The entire cast wears brown pants and white t-shirts with the men’s sleeves cut off. Crowns are depicted with rings of wire; cloaks or robes are ropes slung around one shoulder. Lady Macbeth played by Anna Brungardt enters carrying a red sash to suggest a more ornate gown. The simplicity of these touches is perfect: the small stage never becomes cluttered and the action is given precedence.
The use of capoeria is phenomenal for several reasons: first it fits a play whose subject is strategy and rank. Capoeria is a martial art form disguised as dance, and made popular in Brazil where slaves (primarily from Angola) could not train openly in fighting techniques. There are different forms of capoeira, some more flashy and others more ritualistic. This production uses more of the stunts and feats to depict clashes of power and military might. It is a creative choice. Capoeira is all about relationship and interaction. Traditionally it is played in a tight circle (the roda) and this fits the small space of the Fort Fringe stage. It also intertwines emotion and physicality: how a player responds to a threat – grace under pressure – determines his power, his ability.
Macbeth is a great story, containing classic lines that still provoke thought – like Macbeth’s “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/ And then is heard no more: it is a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”
But seeing this Macbeth signified a great deal: it showed how the play can be made fresh with the integration of capoeira, creative design choices, and a talented cast. It reminded me of how theater contains truths about the ways we interact, our influence on our futures, and how history contains gems – of words and movement – like Shakespeare and Capoeira.
[David Winkler and Anna Brungardt are writing for DC Theatre Scene. Neither is known to this reviewer.]
by William Shakespeare
directed by Jessica Aimone; co-directed by Jeremy Brown
fight director: Matthew Wilson
Capoeira instructor:Yingrui “Zao” Huang
produced by Push/Pull Theater Company
reviewed by Kate Mattingly
Read all the reviews and check out the full Capital Fringe schedule here.
Did you see the show? What did you think?