It amazes me how much the We Happy Few theatre company is able to accomplish through their signature, minimalist approach, and their production of Macbeth exemplifies this. With a cast of five portraying the play’s lofty number of characters in an intimate, black box setting, Macbeth is deliciously eerie. It’s a quick-paced version of The Scottish Play that left me spooked.
For anyone who isn’t familiar with Macbeth, the play follows the titular Macbeth’s (Danny Cackley) descent into madness after he listens to the prophecy of three witches. They tell him that he is to be the King of Scotland, which leads him to become power hungry and commit murder.
A small cast and space lead to some creative choices, one of my favorites being what Director Hannah Todd has done with the witches. The witches’ prophecies fill the room in the form of ghostly whispers (sound design, Ethan Balis). I’m often not a fan of pre-recorded voice-overs being used in live theatre, but this effect consistently gave me goosebumps. Todd’s direction really brings out the creepiness of the play, whether it be through the way Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (Raven Bonniwell) are blocked to pose menacingly or how Banquo’s (Desirée Chappelle) ghostly figure appears looming and pale under the stage lights. Balis’s choice in music also lifts the gut-twisting discomfort of the plot.
With so many characters played by a handful of people, I was left especially impressed by the seamless costume changes. With crafty layering by Costume Designer Moyenda Kulameka and entrances taking place from behind the audience, the cast is able to transform without issue.
closes March 30, 2019
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One glaring weakness, though, is the forced and cringey comedy (something that surprised me from We Happy Few, as they usually have the laughs down pat). Even the porter scene, a moment that is written to serve as comic relief, comes off as try-hard. When Stefany Pesta stumbled around the room as the drunken porter, she reminded me of the college freshmen who overacted their intoxication at parties. I wish this production didn’t try to insert lackluster comedic moments–specifically one relying on the ridiculousness of a unicorn onesie, just unnecessary.
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But, flops in comedy aside, this production is worth watching for Bonniwell’s serpentesque performance of Lady Macbeth and Dylan J. Fleming’s Macduff. When Fleming relays Macduff’s agony over losing his family, his weighted gait and tearful cries fill the room with the pain of a broken man.
Like finding a fishbone in a flavorful soup, it’s a shame that a few moments of attempted comedy taint this creative take on Macbeth. Though, fishbone aside, I do think the looming creepiness makes this production worthwhile.
Macbeth written by William Shakespeare. Directed and adapted by Hannah Todd. Featuring: Raven Bonniwell, Danny Cackley, Desirée Chappelle, Dylan J. Fleming, and Stefany Pesta. Lighting designer: Jason Aufdem-Brinke. Costume designer: Moyenda Kulameka. Stage manager: Sam Reilly. Sound Designer: Ethan Balis. Intimacy director: Emily Sucher. Fight director: Casey Kaleba. Production manager: Alex Davis. Assistant stage manager: Ken Johnson. Props master: Ken Johnson. Dramaturg: Keith Hock. Assistant director: Emily Pazniokas. Producer: Bridget Grace Sheaff. Marketing director: Kerry McGee. Artistic director of theatrical experiences: Kerry McGee. Executive artistic director: Raven Bonniwell . Reviewed by Emily Priborkin.