A Macbeth Assaults Audience

Karen Lee/The Michigan Daily/March 15, 1993

“A Macbeth” is not for those unacquainted with Shakespeare’s Scottish Play, nor for the faint of heart. Adapted by Charles Marowitz, it is based on the principles of Antonin Artaud, a madman who had an enormous influence on the world of drama with his “Theater of Cruelty.”

This concept was created as, in short, an assault on the senses of the audience rather than on the intellect. Among other things, it rejected the script as the primary method of expression, emphasized dream and fantasy, and focused on those unconscious impulses that caused divisions between people and led to hatred, violence and disaster. Director George Popovich, in the transference of his vision from Henry Ford Community College to Ann Arbor Civic Theater’s Second Stage, created an apocalyptic and nightmarish production that remained faithful to Artaud’s principles.

The play started with a twelve-minute “collage” that encapsulated the main events, after which they were again recounted with more detail. In Marowitz’s script, scenes were acted in a different order than in Shakespeare’s text, and lines normally associated with certain characters were given to other actors. Yet these innovations gave a new dimension to the conventional storyline, bringing previously untapped possibilities to the fore.

The Witches’ scenes, for instance, rather than being shown only during the first and fourth acts, as was originally written, were interspersed throughout the play, sometimes as eerie flashbacks. Even more intriguing was the famous “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” speech, said not by Macbeth (Steve Memran) in this version, but by a priest (Jason Winslade).

Popovich’s direction took liberties as well with the usual interpretation of “Macbeth.” There were eight Witches rather than three, and they were on-stage almost continuously; they appeared to serve not exactly as “witches,” but as those “evil spirits that tend on mortal thoughts” that Lady Macbeth made reference to. For they propelled the events of the play, sometimes actually giving to the characters the weapons needed to act out the various murders. Macbeth even had his own evil spirits, a Second and Third Macbeth (Kevin Walsh and M.D. Petee), who, in an arresting moment, crouched behind Macbeth, whispering to him his “Is this a dagger I see before me” soliloquy as he repeated it after them.

Not only was the role of the Witches expanded, but so was the violent lust and the lustful violence that existed in almost every character, for it seemed that those two qualities, in the context of “A Macbeth,” were intertwined. This time Duncan’s murder was committed by both Macbeths who, staring into each other’s eyes as they simultaneously gripped the dagger, made the act profoundly sexual. Later on, during one of his bloodiest speeches, Macbeth proceeded to “rape” his wife. There was, in fact, nothing “pure” about the play until a scene, near the end, when the Macbeths lovingly comforted each other — and then Lady Macbeth collapsed in her husband’s arms dead.

Through walkways and platforms constructed all over the theater, the audience was given a view up close of the depravity that constituted the production; an assault on the senses was indeed launched. This was not a play to be liked, or even loved; rather, one was horrified, sickened and fascinated all at the same time. This reaction seemed to be what “A Macbeth” was aiming for, and it succeeded.

Cast

  • Macbeth: Steve Memran
  • Macduff: Peter Fletcher
  • Duncan: Phillip Matora
  • Banquo: Jason Winslade
  • Malcolm: Paul Bartley
  • Fleance: Brent Brozek
  • Witch 1: Tracy Spada
  • Witch 2: Rachel Soszynski
  • Witch 3: Lori Przyblo
  • Child Macduff: Lucia Mazzola
  • Messenger: Brent Brozek
  • Lady Macduff: Rachel Soszynski
  • Preist: Jason Winslade
  • Second Macbeth: Kevin Walsh
  • Third Macbeth: MD Petee
  • Warriors: EJ Holowicki, Tom Underwood, Jason Winslade
  • Witches: EJ Holowicki, Heather Raye, Sandee Rager, Roseann Gruley, Tom Underwood
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