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Home / Articles / Entertainment / Stage /  Review: Colorado Shakespeare Festival's 'Macbeth'
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Wednesday, July 3,2013

Review: Colorado Shakespeare Festival's 'Macbeth'

Afghanistan-set 'Macbeth' darkly dazzles

By Gary Zeidner
Photo by Casey A. Cass/CU-Boulder
Liza de Weerd and Nigel Gore

Setting one of Shakespeare’s plays in a relatively modern time and place is more the rule than the exception these days. Of the dozens of performances of the Bard’s works I’ve seen, only a small handful has used a “traditional” setting. Instead, directors tend to take Othello and move it to America’s antebellum South or turn Romeo into a Greaser and Juliet into a Soc a la The Outsiders.

While this bent toward modernizing Shakespeare invariably results in novel productions, it often feels more a gimmick than an inspiration. From time to time, however, a director uses this technique so successfully that a well-worn classic, a known commodity, becomes vibrantly alive once again. Such is the case with Director Jane Page’s Macbeth at this year’s Colorado Shakespeare Festival (CSF).

With American troops still on the ground in Afghanistan today and with the relationship between the U.S. and Russia becoming more eerily Cold War-ish every week, Page’s choice to set Macbeth in the 1980s Soviet occupation of the perennially war-torn Iranian neighbor is nothing short of brilliant. This Macbeth may be the most thought-provoking and emotionally arresting production of a Shakespeare play that I have ever seen.  

As Macbeth (Nigel Gore) and Banquo (Sam Gregory) journey home from battle, they encounter three witches (Jamie Ann Romero, Nicole Bruce and Geoffrey Kent — not in drag). The witches prophesy that Macbeth will be elevated to next-in-line for the throne and that Banquo’s sons shall one day be king. As soon as the two men reach the kingdom, King Duncan (Lawrence Hecht), grants Macbeth the prophesied title.

Macbeth’s wife, Lady Macbeth (Liza de Weerd — who, with a name like that, perhaps should have played one of the witches), goads her husband to seize the moment, murder Duncan and ascend to the throne. Though conflicted at first, Macbeth ultimately screws his courage to the sticking place and does the dastardly deed. Mindful of the witches’ words, Macbeth realizes that killing the king is only a half-measure, and sends assassins to murder Banquo and his son, Fleance (James Miller).

Though Banquo dies, Fleance escapes, and this — along with another visit by Macbeth to the witches — sets up a twist ending that likely had Elizabethan audiences walking out of the Globe Theatre, mouths agape, thinking of Shakespeare as his generation’s Shyamalan (circa The Sixth Sense — everything after that film and Unbreakable has been a sad study in diminishing returns). If you’ve never read nor seen Macbeth, pay close attention to this second set of supernatural pronouncements, then watch wide-eyed as they come to pass in most unusual ways.

The CSF has been working hard to recapture the credibility and respectability it has enjoyed in decades past. Casting actors like Nigel Gore, who plays pivotal roles in both A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth, aids those efforts immeasurably. Gore exceeds all expectations, whether delivering a famous soliloquy or a non-traditionally humorous one-sentence aside. Along with Gore, Romero, Bruce and Kent give us chillingly venomous Middle Eastern witches that feel more organically integrated into the time and place than in any other production of Macbeth I have experienced.

Scenic Designer Lisa Orzolek builds on the foundational set she created for A Midsummer Night’s Dream to give Macbeth a simple yet evocative look. The costumes by Hugh Hanson and the props — particularly the wide array of firearms — by Amy Chini impart to the play an air of authenticity not often seen.

Page has crafted a Macbeth that is so topical, so gripping, that some audience members may actually feel uncomfortable during certain particularly challenging scenes. The reactions from the opening night crowd were some of the most visceral I’ve witnessed at the CSF. Macbeth is a play about the lust for power and its ramifications, and this version of it drills that point home mercilessly. It should be required viewing, a cautionary tale, if you will, for politicians at all levels and in all areas.

Macbeth plays through Aug. 10 at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival on the CU campus. Tickets are $10-$59. Call 303-492-8008 or visit www.coloradoshakes.org for more information.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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I've had the pleasure of seeing Ms. de Weerd work in multiple projects both on stage and screen.  It is truly sad that you chose to review her last name instead of her work.  She is originally from the Netherlands (where her name, of course, is completely ordinary) speaks five languages and commands Shakespeare's text more beautifully than most people who grew up with English as their primary language.

Your comment about her name is unbelievably insensitive and frankly quite ignorant. It is ironic that you are reviewing a production of Macbeth that explores a foreign culture not widely understood by Americans, and with that one sentence, you perpetuate stereotypes that follow us outside of our borders.

You should hold yourself to a higher standard than that Mr. Zeidner. 

 

I, too, was frankly astounded at the juvenile comment on Ms. de Weerd's name, especially when combined with a failure to comment upon the quality of her performance. I agree with everything that John so eloquently said. Shame on you, Mr. Zeidner.

 

1) You'd think with a name like Zeidner he'd have a clue about zeitgeist. 2) "It is truly sad that you chose to review her last name instead of her work..." Perfectly stated John! 3) Altho I have plenty of grammatical issues when I write, when there's an error in your second sentence, all credibility as a "critic" or "reviewer" or whatever it is you purport to be is lost on me. 4 - and most importantly) If you're fortunate enough to see a performer play Shakespeare's Lady M with the breadth and truth as does de Weerd, count yourself a better person for the experience.

 

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REPLY TO THIS COMMENT

Liza De Weerd gives a subtle and brilliant performance. The best Lady M. I have seen.

Why no mention of Mr Gore as in Blood and Gore? Surely a missed opportunity. Or Mr Kent obviously showing up for the wrong play. 

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"Liza de Weerd — who, with a name like that, perhaps should have played one of the witches"   Did I just read that right?  Did a reviewer dismiss an actor's performance on the basis of her name?  This must also explain why Gary Zeidner thought "Gore exceeds all expectations..." because "Gore" is a name with only four letters and easy to spell.  Sophisticated stuff, this.

 

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....A C- review of a A play.....

 

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Agree with everything said, thanks to all for speaking up. It is hard to believe that anyone edited this review. Until you read the a&e editor's review of another Shakespeare play. Hey, it's just his opinion. No, it's his uninformed response, which does not need to be scholarly to be on point. Just insightful. Neither man has any, theater-wise, and neither seems bothered by that at all. But look at what captains the ship. And why has no one asked why a play about a man who makes a deal with the devil to achieve his destiny fits in Afghanistan? Or how it would be possible for Lady M to try to assert herself in that society? Trivial matters. Just the play, that's all.

 

 
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