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Macbeth, up on the Roof
Directed by Charles Lear
Presented by Shakespeare in the Industrial Park
57 Thames St., off Morgan Ave.
$15 SmartTix at (212) 668-4444
Sat. and Sun. 3 p.m.
Opened Sept. 10, closes Oct. 2
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Sept. 17, 2005
It’s the year 2067. After a disastrous war with the European Union followed by a plague of the Chinese monkey virus; the United States has become a barren wasteland. Government has been replaced by tribal law maintained by various warlords. And the land is filled with unrest.
No, this is not the introduction to a new film by George Lucas. It’s the apocalyptic setting for Shakespeare in the Industrial Park’s new production of Macbeth staged on the rooftop of on old building in Williamsburg.
Director Charles Lear writes in the program that the inspiration for the show came from a dumpster filled with garbage at his place of employment. In fact, Lear says that everything used for the construction of weapons and furniture in the play came from recycled garbage. One could say the same about the costumes. But then it just might be that much of the clothing worn by this youthful band of actors came from their closets.
Setting Macbeth in the future after a plague works wonderfully on an empty rooftop in an area of Brooklyn dominated by industrial waste and the distant skyline of Manhattan. But it’s not so clear what it does for Shakespeare’s original play.
After deciding that this Macbeth will be about petty warlords battling for supremacy and putting his characters in clothing more suited to punk rockers, Lear did nothing to reinforce his concept. If his actors had spoken with a British accent they might have been on a London stage.
In their ragtag, torn clothing, the actors could have been much more convincing if they’d fought with chains and box cutters. And surely Lear could have found some music to more adequately convey an atmosphere of violence.
Lear has chosen two strong actors to play his leads. But Shakespeare’s language seems to be perpetually at odds with the presentation. Joseph Miller is a very young Macbeth. In a leather jacket he looks more like a drug dealer than a king. Cory Solar is a wickedly captivating Lady Macbeth. But the young lady’s tattoos somehow made it hard to take her seriously.
Nevertheless, this was a very serious attempt at Shakespearean tragedy. And some of the acting was quite good. The worst that could be said about this production is that it lacks much of the dignity we associate with Shakespeare.
But what this production really needs is a bit more daring and imagination. Then who knows that the Bard himself might not have appreciated this irreverent look at his work?
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