REVIEW: Heartwood’s “Macbeth”: Outside the Box

(Review by David Treadwell for the New Maine Times)

POSTING DATE: April 30, 2013

Fasten your seatbelt. Take a deep breath. Prepare to see a Macbeth you’ve never seen before. You won’t know what to expect. Indeed, the playbill states, “Macbeth, It’s not what you’re thinking.” But you will be moved – and engaged and amazed and dazzled and stunned. You might also, fair warning, be confused if you’re not up on your Macbeth. (Be sure to review a plot summary before coming to the Parker Poe Theater at Lincoln Academy in Newcastle.)

What makes this Macbeth different, for openers, is the time setting: today. Then there are the props one might not typically associate with Shakespeare, such as a mini IPad, cell phones, and video screens, which show everything from a missing actor to a child’s video game. And then there’s Macbeth himself, played brilliantly by Chris Davis, a young Maine native who’s currently plying his acting trade in New York City. Oh, and you’ll also be treated to a panoply of visual and auditory effects throughout the play – seeping smoke and loud explosions, glaring lights and mournful music. The waterfall on stage – yes, that too – wasn’t operational in time for this preview, but it should be up and running for the regular performances.

All this said, Shakespeare is still Shakespeare and Macbeth is still Macbeth. The powerful lines (“Time and the hour runs through the roughest day,” “All the world’s a stage..”) retain their impact. The lead characters do more than justice to these immortal roles. Chris Davis, as Macbeth, transitions brilliantly from a rather ordinary chap to a sputtering madman who will stop at nothing to get – and keep – power. Elise Voight plays a pitch-perfect Lady Macbeth as she unravels, shocked at the realization of what has transpired (largely because of her conniving), horrified at the blood on her hands. JP Guimont is absolutely magnificent as Macduff; you feel his pain and you marvel at his intensity.

A tip of the hat also goes to Mark Bedell who, in addition to playing Banquo, directed the extraordinarily realistic fight scenes. Letitia Munson, technical director and stage manager, skillfully orchestrates all the audio and visual effects, which add to the play’s huge impact.

Griff Braley, Director of Heartwood Regional Theater, once again displays his willingness to aim high to create a memorable theatrical experience. Braley stands ever willing to challenge his actors, the audience and the traditional interpretations of theater works.

So…challenge yourself and spend a night out with Macbeth.

Macbeth runs April 26, 27 and May 3, 4, 9-11 at 7:30 pm with one 3:00 matinee, Sunday May 5 in the Parker Poe Theater, Newcastle. Tickets are $10/students, $20/adults (advance), $22 (at the door). Reservations: 563-1373 or boxoffice@heartwoodtheater.org. For details/directions, visit www.heartwoodtheater.org.

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