Sundown Collaborative Theatre
Directed by Rey Torres
Assistant Director - Katie Reynolds
Directing Advisor - Tashina Richardson
Stage Manager - Irvin Moreno
Choreography - George Ferrie
Costume Design - Kaori Imai
Lighting Design - Morgan Hillan
Props Design - Tashina Richardson
Andrew Aguilar - Macbeth
Madelyn Blair - Lady Macbeth
Paul Christian - Banquo
Cody Lucas - Macduff
Jerome Beck - Malcolm
Robert Linder - Duncan/Porter/Seyton
Jeannette Brashear - Ross
Ornella Bruno - Lady Macduff/Doctor
Jordan Golden - Fleance/Son/Young Man
Reviewed Performance 3/3/2012
Reviewed by Mary L. Clark, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Life imitates art, imitates life, and on and on. . . Life comes in the form of headlines, bannered across the pages, of greed, ambition and corruption on a worldwide level. Art precedes with the words of a playwright from the early 1600's.
Life plays out in the guise of bankers, property realtors, mammoth corporations, and entire countries knowingly using their fellow countrymen for their own gain, climbing their various ladders to who knows where. Art presents itself in an adaptation of the Scottish play by Sundown Collaborative Theatre. They created a modern interpretation so exactly parallel to and a mirror of both our current government leaders and corporate heads, and the reigning heads of state Shakespeare referenced within his tragedy.
Those who hold theatre superstitions dearly, now's the time to turn away because here it comes Sundown Collaborative and Director Rey Torres have plucked Macbeth from the past, shaken it up, trimmed it up, and given it an upscale corporate spin. But underneath, it's still the same old story - a person of some prestige and wealth, really wanting for little, just can't seem to be content and wants what someone else has, wants more. Because more is "Better", more means you are above others - it means you have worth. So the film had it right in saying, "Greed is Good" - or "Foul is Fair", as the three witches prophesied (it was their Occupy Wall Street slogan). You'd think we would have learned something in 400 years.
Macbeth did that - took what he most desired, felt was his just because, and he used all the ways in his power to achieve the perfect end result. But Macbeth didn't do all this alone - he surrounded him with a network of men, or executives and office workers in this production, who wanted even a bit of what he had, and so became a part of his "cause" and supported him fully. And what man doesn't have an equally or more powerful woman to stand by him lest he blunder, scandalize himself, or forget the third of the Federal agencies he would dissolve if he - oh, sorry, I was thinking of someone else. . . .
In Torres vision, ancient castles became conference rooms, banquets morphed into candidate announcement parties. These all developed around black acting studio cubes of various heights and lengths. Costumer Kaori Imai dressed the players in office attire suit coats off, vests, shirt sleeves rolled up for the men, dress skirts and blouses for the women. Men's coats came on for special occasions, as if kingly cloaks or armor. The executive wife, Lady Macbeth, wore tight red sweater top, long necklace, slacks and black heels ready for any occasion. All in all Shakespeare meets The Firm or Good Wife.
Tightening the play and combining characters' roles, this adaptation by R. Andrew Aguilar and Cody Lucas reduced the major characters and those fluff Thanes down to nine ensemble members who performed all the parts with choreographed precision. Each movement was exact and each member had an arsenal of props in their pockets or nearby to become another character or shift to another scene. It was inventive to have most of the ensemble to utter the witches' prophetic words. They were the wind, the ghostly echoes, knocks on the door, drums, the Great Birnam woods and more. In the prop department, Tashina Richardson made clever use of tiny LED flashlights for those all important candles, mini recorder used to preserve Lady Macbeth's ranting, and umbrellas opened as the moving trees to Macbeth's demise. It was appropriate having the ensemble wear black eye masks when becoming the witches, voices and conscience of Macbeth - symbolization that people may not be what they seem.
The space could only tolerate three medium washes for general lighting. Morgan Hillan added a few domed flood lamps as filler. The staging and a believable fist fight were choreographed by George Ferrie. Exactitude ruled in this production, and it fit well with the set and theatre space.
Green Space Arts Collective main room is a dance studio, complete with bars on the stage's back wall and side. A mirror covers the entire back wall of the audience so the actors could see themselves when facing out. This came into use in the ghost scenes, where Macbeth looked out and could see the lights from behind him. Where that mirror, and the audience seating failed the actors was that most all the blocking was down front. Anyone on the audience edges got a lot head sides. To angle the audience around in a curved L shape would open the staging area, open the actors to face each other more and prevent the look of "to the audience" monologues. Actually, there were times I wished Macbeth or Lady Macbeth had spoken to the audience, situated where they were. Who better to go stark raving mad to than the fourth wall people in the dark?
Several of the nine actors had roles they could chew the curtains with, had there been any around! Ross, the messenger to first King Duncan and then confidant to Macbeth was portrayed by Jeannette Brashear, with both executive secretary style and demeanor.
Clipboard at the ready, she had the proper papers to sign, the brains to realize the truth, and knowledge enough to keep secrets. Robert Linder played exuberant King Duncan who left us early in Act I, then an even more exuberant Porter. I've always seen this role played as more king's Fool than crazed drunkard, and while I know the line about nose painting (red nose); I simply did not get the pig nose mask. Lastly, as Seyton, Macbeth's servant and attendant, Linder went all low-life hired murderer with long slicked back hair and cheap leather jacket. The director meshed Seyton and all three murderers into one gangster so much more effective to see one guy "off" the many victims of this play.
Jerome Beck made a good executive Malcolm but served the play best with his screeching witch or baritone ghost vocalizations. He also moved easily and eloquently onstage in the choreographed scenes. Paul Christian's Banquo, friend to Macbeth and King Duncan's army general, was also eloquent onstage with an older man's confidant stance and voice.
Macduff, the Thane of Fife, first became suspicious something wasn't right in Denmark (wrong play). Cody Lucas portrayed his character as the different one of the executives, the odd man out. Wearing a grey shirt rather than mandatory white, and keeping to himself at times, he visually stood out onstage. Lucas' Macduff was a man of mystery, which is why one of his scenes startled me in its overkill. In Act 4, Macduff and Malcolm are arguing as whether they are for or against Macbeth. The argument by the actors was forced and imbalanced. Lucas slowed the scene down to such a degree, the play ground to a halt. His performance there reveled in pontification.
On the other hand, Madelyn Blair as Lady Macbeth kept her cards played close as she subtly whispered her commands and desires in Macbeth's ear. Always the woman standing behind her man she took complete presence with each entrance into the playing area. There were times I felt Blair was too intense and her actions lacked sufficient build. Lady M's famous spot cleaning speech was correctly understated however, as it should be for someone asleep. Blair's was a well-developed, concise role of simmering power.
I found moments of Andrew Aguilar's performance as Macbeth to be riveting. A large man with powerful presence, Aguilar began rather buffoonish, as an executive who had no understanding of ladder climbing and bonus getting. He learned fast though, with the help of his wife. Aguilar's body movement changed, his face became harsh and eyes steely. Only on occasion, when he moved over to the side edge of the area, could you see the underlying fear in his sometimes teary eyes. In the last scenes, when Macbeth knew he was defeated and doomed, there was a beautiful moment when you saw the relief in his eyes, the pain and anguish falling from his face and body; he was at peace in resignation. An actor's response taken down to the simplest of gestures.
Rey Torres blended different genres of performance to direct this rendition of Macbeth. Using abstract modern dance ideas with contemporary drama, he explored this tragedy at its most basic to tell a story with which current audiences could recognize and relate. The problem logistics with all the murders ("who would have thought the old man. . .had so much blood in him") was magically handled with red ribbons coming from necks, stomachs, etc. Both Macbeth and his Lady wore ribbons wound on their hands as the guilt they could not remove.
Music for this play only came as pre-show filler with songs, except some Pink Floyd, I did not recognize, and that seemed to have no significance to the story. I often thought music would have assisted scene shifts but, in actuality, they moved so fast, the cues would have been late. One scene that included a soft, mournful tune was also one of my favorites. At the end, rather than Macbeth and Macduff fighting and running offstage, then Macduff returning with his head, Torres has Macbeth beaten and stabbed onstage. Lady Macbeth comes to sit with him at his death in disguise. As the music plays, she removes her mask; he recognizes her, takes his last words and dies. For me, it was fitting she should be his final vision - the person who began his downfall was also there at the end.
Sundown Collaborative Theatre presented a solid production with more than adequate performances, some on a professional level. Bring a cushion for your seat, sip wine or beer, sit back and watch Shakespeare as he wrote it to be performed; for the people.
Sundown Collaborative Theatre
Green Space Arts Collective, 529 Malone, Denton, TX 76201
Plays through March 11th
Thursday ? Sunday at 8:00 pm
Tickets are $8.00 - $10.00
To reserve tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org