A production must reflect its place and time, must be “here and now,” says Omri Nitzan. Our world is visual, immediate.
Everybody knows everything all the time. The social media see to that. Hence Macbeth. It’s ironic, vulgar, cynical, violent, gaudy, paranoid, brash and overflows into the aisles, the wings, anywhere there’s space.
That’s why the report to Duncan (Eli Gornstein) of Macbeth’s (Gil Frank) prowess at the beginning of the play is almost parody; that’s why, from the beginning, we realize Macbeth is essentially a little man who gets too big for his boots – even his “throne” dwarfs him.
That’s why low comedy is juxtaposed with terror, why the scenes Shakespeare kept offstage we see up close and personal, and why the blood motif inundates not only events but the lighting, set and clothes.
Nitzan’s Macbeth is true to Shakespeare’s, and Shakespeare’s Macbeth, according to Polish scholar Jan Kott, posts a nightmare world “steeped in blood... it floods the stage.” Macbeth is about lust, toxic ambition, power turned to megalomania, slaughter, pointlessness, and for us “here and now,” about the nightmare world we’ve lived in since 9/11.
After the murder of Duncan, after the murder of Banquo (Ohad Shahar), Macbeth can say callously (and famously) “ ...I am in blood/Stepp’d in so far that should I wade no more/Returning were as tedious as go o’er.”
He has made the choice. He made it when he killed Duncan.
The greatness of Frank’s performance as Macbeth is that he makes us bear horrified witness to his journey from good to evil. He shows us how he chooses, lets us into the mind of an evolving monster, compelling our attention.
Ohad Shahar also grabs us. His Banquo is no shining moral light.
No less opportunist than his colleague, he’s more cautious, willing to wait and see. Then Macbeth orders his murder. Outraged at the treachery, Banquo/Shahar bestows a gleeful and witty savagery on his ghost. There are some superb scenes in this Macbeth and the Banquet is one.
But the tipping point to all is Lady Macbeth (Ruthie Asarsai). She is the one who goads him into the initial killing, who reassures her panicked spouse that water will “wash this filthy witness from your hand,” who is so intent upon the immediate goal she does not think of consequence. She cannot bend, and so she breaks. Ruthie Asarsai reaches for the stars in this hugely demanding role, and nearly gets there. What she cannot suppress is her own imagination, an attribute lacking in Shakespeare’s very literal Lady M, so that Asarsai’s Lady M becomes too vulnerable.
From the beginning Dudu Niv’s fine Macduff is a watcher: he’s wary, keeps his head down so he can keep it on. We watch him change as the visceral shock when he hears his family has been murdered hits home. For the time it needs, he’ll become as vicious as his former boss.
Eli Gornstein shines as Duncan and the gentle Doctor. Alon Dahan’s “drunken” pseudo-gravity adds irony to the Porter’s speech and Witches Edna Balilius, Yarden Bracha and Rona Lee Shimon fling themselves gustily into their roles.
Travesty or triumph? This Macbeth is some of both yet more than either. Its blood-soaked darkness sheds some light on who and what we may be. And isn’t that the point?
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