Macbeth makes odd leaps to madness at Off the Wall
A play so regaled as cursed that many thespians dare not speak its name while inside a theater, Shakespeare’s Macbeth takes us on a journey into the darkness of human greed, hubris and fear. Rather than create distance between this rather dark material and the audience, however, Off the Wall Theatre’s production plays out the lives of these characters within spitting distance. With seating for only 20 people, there is little separation between player and patron, and one shouldn’t be surprised if you suddenly find yourself sitting next to a witch or a ghost.
Even more intimate is the connection in time; director Dale Gutzman has set the tragedy not in the Scotland of the Middle Ages, but in a modern war zone. Costumes progress from the grittiness of battle to the couture of high society, and a broad range of musical styles underscore much of the play to provide both a sense of timelessness to the action and a cinematic feel not easily obtained in a narrow black box space.
Gutzman mentions in his director’s notes that this is his seventh time doing the Scottish play, and his experience shows. His staging is concise and deliberate, utilizing every part of the space in an effective manner. It transports us from the horrors of a field medic’s tent to the majesty of the King’s chambers with little more than shifts of light, some well-placed props and thoughtful blocking.
Of course, playing the action in contemporary times means doubly complicating the delivery of the text. While the entire cast aptly navigates the language, of particular note is Tamara Martinsek as Lady Macbeth. Martinsek is particularly adept in delivering the iambic pentameter lines in a seemingly effortless way that makes one forget they are listening to a play written in verse. Additionally, her alluring stage presence superbly draws us into her control over her husband, almost convincing us of the logic in killing the king for personal gain. The ensuing balancing act of controlling her husband and her eventual descent into madness are, as well, an impressive arc of acting, and Martinsek manages to deliver this wondeful performance while still avoiding upstaging her husband. Very Lady Macbeth-like, indeed.
Other standout performances include a commanding Terry Gavin as King Duncan, Ryan Stajmiger as the king’s son Malcolm and Marcee Doherty and Daniel O’Dwyer in a touching scene between Lady Macduff and her son.
Macbeth runs through March 7 at Off the Wall Theatre, located at 127 E Wells St. Tickets are $21.50-$25.50, depending on reservations, though many performances are already sold out. Visit the website or call 414-327-3552 for more information.