Friday, December 21, 2012

SUNY New Paltz Macbeth Falls Flat

While there were many things I thoroughly enjoyed about the SUNY New Paltz production of Macbeth, the play as a whole fell flat for me; some of the concepts were amazing but poorly executed, the lead role of Macbeth was out-acted and some of the scenes were rushed and confusing.

To start with the high points, the sound and special effects were phenomenal; the realistic gun props even gave me an uneasy feeling at the start of the play ("what if they were real, we wouldn't know until real bullets were fired!) which, considering Macbeth is a supernaturally-influenced tragedy, was appropriate. The stage itself was set-up to make the most use out of a small space; the scene changes had a lot of versatility to work with (however again, the execution of changing scenes was at best confusing and at worst unbelievable).

Knowing that Macbeth is one of Shakespeare's shortest plays, I was expecting a lot of fast action; the action was definitely fast but not exactly easy to understand. Had I no previous knowledge of Macbeth, I think I would have been utterly confused throughout the entire performance (and seeing as I had just read the play, the fact that I was still confused points to poor management of time, stage directions and scene changes). I needed to continuously reference the scene changes on the Playbill to keep up; I expected some kind of indication with props or even sound effects to cue an outdoor scene, a bedroom scene, etc. I was also sorely disappointed that the murder of King Duncan was done behind the scenes and not attempted in front of the audience but, hey, I s'pose you can't have everything. Finally, I thought that Macbeth's performance itself was largely out-shined by the believable portrayals of Lady Macbeth, King Duncan and Macduff. I was waiting with baited breath to see a real obvious destruction visible in Macbeth, culminating with an overall sense of loss (with life, purpose, meaning, etc.) and frankly, saw very few character changes through his performance. Granted, it was a short play (as Shakespeare intended) but I found both Lady Macbeth's dissension into insanity and Macduff's quick switch to utter rage to be both believable and obvious.

Finally, the much waited-for witches worked and didn't work for me as a viewer. I found the first scene with them to be excellent; the possession of the dead civilian bodies was creepy and sort-of believable; I liked the side-step away from the traditional portrayal of witches and was excited to see what else they would do. However, the random possessions throughout the play didn't hit-home with me and seemed both random and confusing; did the other characters realized someone was a witch, or was it purely for the audience and- if so- what exactly was the point? Rather than reinforcing creepiness I found it to be distracting. And finally, the HUGE witch scene where the apparitions come to Macbeth from the cauldron just... wasn't there. There was no cauldron, no tangible witch and simply utter-chaos. I was expecting chaos and a new-age spin on witches, but would have preferred something along the lines of three specific "possessions" that could have more clearly relayed the important premonitions and messages from that culminating scene.

On the whole, I am sad to say I was not entirely thrilled with the SUNY New Paltz production of Macbeth, although I cannot say I wasn't entertained (perhaps just hard to please).

No comments: