“Blow wind come rack, at least we'll die with armor on our back!” The powerful lines exploded througout the Duke Theater the second they left John Douglas Thompson's throat. These lines began the final scenes of a performance of Macbeth which will be forever seared into my memory. Everything was picturesque, from the dark lines of the bearded he-witches to Lady Macbeth's final scene as she stood in a white gown, rubbing her hands and tearfully spewing nonsense, and half the beast, of what was once a loving couple had been vanquished. The direction showed through the dense web of the plot when Malcolm and Macduff stood, atop a balcony, looking out as gods, poised to strike, while mere men toilded and fought below. But the most memorable moment was when Macbeth revisited the whiches. As Thompson lay writhing on the floor, sheilding his eyes from the previous visions, eight lights sprang from the pale slabs of stone beneath him, representing the third and most sinister illusion. Finally, as the final seconds ticked down, Malcolm stood, newly crowned the king of Scotland. And as the cheer of "hail" rippled throughout his soldiers, his boyish features relinquished their hold on his body, giving over to those of a man.
This production did three things, among many notable ones, which particularly moved me. The first was the witches. This was the first production I know of which portrayed them as men. Though this seemed unusual, Banquo does infact mention that, due to their beards, he can’t distinguish their sex. These three being men made the Lady Macbeth the only woman in the play, which sets up the next momento; they turned the Macbeth into a loving, human, emotional couple. Instead of keeping them both demonic in their seperate ways, they often clung to each other and loved. Seeing such a drastically different interpretation made me understand that what Lady Macbeth really wanted to be a man. She has to carry out her dreams and aspirations through Macbeth, who faltered when she would not have. Her obsession finally costs her the thing which allows her to live these fantasies: her mind. This ultimately was her downfall. The third was the most striking. The lighting! The blank stage came to life through the lighting. Lights hung from above, left, right, even below the stage. They brought out the finer qualities of the performance. Rather than create a visual specter, the lighting merely opened the door for the audience member's minds to create the scene. And that is the most vivid imagery there is.
As I said, this production was possibly the greatest production of a Shakespeare play I have seen. Unfortunately I caught the last show of the run. But I certainly didn't catch the end of John Douglas Thompson and his fellows! He has emerged as one of the best Shakespearean actors around. Arin Arbus' masterful direction can be found somewhat frequently aswell. So don't miss a chance to see one of these stars! I know that this performance was an eye opener for many, and truly understanding Shakespeare or anything else means seeing all aspects of it.
(pictures to follow)