Everyone loves Macbeth except me. Yes, yes, I know—it's Shakespeare's tragic masterpiece and supposedly the best leading parts in the whole soon-to-be-blown-up world for a guy and a gal. But I can't help it: Macbeth is a snooze if the actors are dull and the staging uninspired, and no one brings anything new to the production.
As I sat through the first and then second acts of this Hunger Artists production, I was amply impressed—as I usually am—with Mark Coyan as Macbeth, pretty riveted by Kimberly Fisher's Lady Macbeth, and exceptionally pleased with Mark Palkoner's Macduff. Ethan Rogers as Rosse was the most engaged person onstage. I also really liked the hematite-colored crater of bloody water in the center of the theater-in-the-round, and I didn't love—but could handle—the king's crown surreally suspended above the gory crater.
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I'm definitely onboard with director Kelly Flynn's interpretation of Shakespeare in the traditional style, too—all about the words, not so much about the fancy costumes and scenery—and the fight scenes were well-choreographed with minimal bloodletting, retaining some enjoyable theatrics.
What made me want to down a goblet of hemlock, however, were the excruciatingly mediocre witches (in white macram outfits? before Easter?) who made Shakespeare's words ring sinfully hollow; the painfully bad Lady Macduff-gets-murdered scene; the unbelievably horrible choice to remove the fourth wall and have the drunk porter interact with the audience; and, in general, the sense that more often than not, the actors were running through their lines like Dictaphones—no real affection and no real desire to convey the meaning behind the Bard's English. Even Coyan often seemed distant from his character, hardly making the connection between Macbeth's initial amiability, then envy, cowardice, rage, insanity and, well, stabilized insanity. Fisher initially wobbled with her Lady Macbeth—until the actual murder of King Duncan; henceforth, she nailed the role.
But through all the screaming, poignant staring, trembling, crying and freedom kissing (formerly known as French kissing), the only person to emit genuine passion was Palkoner. Upon learning of the murder of his wife and children, he was filled with such sentiment that, for a mini moment, I was sucked into this run-of-the-mill slumberland. Hopefully, once their opening-weekend jitters wear off, the rest of the cast will follow his example.
Macbeth at the Hunger Artists Theatre, 699-A S. State College Blvd., Fullerton, (714) 680-6803; www.hungerartists.com. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. Through April 27. $12-$15.