Group: Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Venue: Old Post Office Plaza, on Locust between 8th and 9th
Dates: July 31, August 1
Tickets: Free admission
Story: In the words of director Rachel Tibbetts, the all-female version of the Bard’s classic tragedy about the corruption and corrosive effect of ambition and power is set “in a world where something ‘has happened’ and as a result all the men have disappeared.” Thus, all of the male characters, including Macbeth, Banquo and Macduff, are portrayed by actresses, as well as the traditional female characters such as Lady Macbeth and Lady Macduff.
Highlights: SATE utilizes the theater movement methods of Viewpoints (designed by Anne Bogart) and Suzuki (created by Tadashi Suzuki) as well as contact improvisation and Pilobolus-style dance. All of that is apparent in its stylized if quizzical adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s best-known and most often performed works. Indeed, the troupe takes advantage of the austere, urban landscape at the Old Post Office Plaza, with its looming steel structures and bizarre sculpture of a giant half-torso of a man to blend its arresting interpretation with the environment.
Other Info: Unfortunately, SATE hasn’t figured out how to quell the sounds and ambient noise of the burgeoning downtown scene, and so quite often its performers are drowned out or simply unintelligible. Additionally, Tibbetts seems more concerned with the artistic flair of the group’s version than in reaching into the heart of the story’s timeless appeal. And that torso lying prone in the background seems more reminiscent of the Statue of Liberty in the original Planet of the Apes than might be desired.
There are, however, some good performances among the cast. Kimberly Weller delivers a stirring rendition of the title character’s “sound and fury” lament, and Kirsten Wylder is creepily effective as the ghost of Banquo at Macbeth’s celebration feast. Ellie Schwetye is convincing as the conniving and cunning Lady Macbeth, less so in her delusional moments of insanity. Margeau Baue Steinau as Macduff is among the best of the cast in clearly projecting her lines, but the movement of Macduff army from the forest in the climactic scene seems labored to be worked around the SATE’s training exercises.
Others in the earnest cast include Ashley Spivak, Tonya Darabcsek and Erin Roberts as a sexy trio of witches, Emily Piro as Malcolm, Cara Barresi as Lennox, Sarajane Alverson as Duncan and Lady Macduff, Elizabeth Pajares, Audrey Martin, Darlene Fleming Bry and Madeleine Steinau. Tibbetts gets the players into their roles with commitment for their troupe’s specific craft.
Pamela Reckamp’s sound design seems filled with sheet metal as well as the occasional beating drum, while Robert Mitchell’s fight choreography allows for the battle scenes to play out in the company’s acrobatic, signature style. Tibbetts and Margeau Steinau contribute the apocalyptic togs worn by the players.
Admission is free, so this is a good opportunity for audiences to observe the eccentric approach of SATE, for better or worse, and get still another look at the Scottish play.
Rating: A 3 on a scale of 1-to-5.