I last intimately encountered Shakespeare was in high school and now only recall sporadic lines of his poetry, but, as I watch the opening scenes of Mme. Macbeth–a gender-bending interpretation of an, otherwise, traditional telling of Macbeth–Hamlet (surprisingly) knocks from the furthest mile of my memory: “Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounce it to you, trippingly on the tongue.”
And that would be my advice to the King’s Players of this year’s Capital Fringe Festival. Enunciate. Project. Savor. Treat Shakespeare’s sacred words as music. The actors understand their lines but don’t always deliver them with the clear, crisp conviction that not only reaches, but also touches, the patron furthest from stage. Their muddled speech, methinks, flows from flat staging/blocking and an unrefined vision.
One bench resides in the stage background and nothing else—no levels for the actors to exploit for dimension. At several junctures, half a dozen characters fill the space haphazardly. They speak in turn with little movement because no room exists to move into, including higher ground. Steps from stage left to stage right digress into pacing rather than deliberate footfalls giving weight to words.
The infamous witches (Timothy R. King, Danny Rovin, and Mitch Irzinski) squat on stage most of the play taking up valuable space. Their presence, I guess, means to set a dark tone: it does not.
I love the gender-swapping idea when casting characters but the concept dies before a full vision blooms. I was unsure whether I was watching women portraying women for characters originally written as men or women portraying men (and vice versa) until Mme. Macbeth turned up in a dress. The carillon then sounded in my head, but I wish I hadn’t been told through costume. No one actor shined. And, I hate to say it, but I liked the men better.
The witches’ famous “Double, double, toil and trouble” diatribe echoes hauntingly—it is blocked with the thought missing in other scenes. Danny Rovin’s brief stint as Lady Macduff is the most convincing gender-role switch, and his choreography for the sword fights has swagger enough to befit such a small stage.
at Fort Fringe – Bedroom
612 L Street NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Details and tickets
Kat Gadway, as Mme. Macbeth, delivers her lines without aplomb while the audience views her back no less than half a dozen times (making her hard to understand). Alexia Poe, as MacDuff, speaks without rushing, mumbling, or forgetting the audience, and near the end, all the actors finally hit a stride with delivery. Each (with the exception of Gadway and Poe) plays more than one role, and their on-stage presence comfort level varies by character. Many of the women were young, and I give them props for fully understanding the psychological depth that is Macbeth.
If you’re a collector of Shakespeare productions seeking to appreciate all interpretations of his yarns, you may want to taste this show. After all, there is no need to question the content. The story is almost legend. And the Bard is the Bard: even when he’s bad, he’s good.
If you’re not a collector, don’t fret. There will always be another version of Macbeth, somewhere, somehow. With perfect Scottish accents. And kilts.