Brian Hinds. Photo: Bill Brymer
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Matt Wallace
Edited by Gregory Maupin and Matt Wallace
A review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2020 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Although you never leave your car, you can tune “Scotland Underground Radio” in on your car stereo as soon as you turn in from Trevilian Way and listen to Sounds of the Apocalypse. It’s the first confirmation that this Macbeth, although set in a future time, is a production for an audience experiencing a pandemic.
The familiar plot of the titular character’s rise to power with supernatural encouragement is dramatically cut by Gregory Maupin and Matt Wallace to a swiftly paced 65 minutes, yet it drops few if any of the iconic moments and often quoted language. The dagger is seen, the ghost comes to Macbeth, Lady M walks in her sleep, and Burnham Wood comes to Dunsinane. Only those intimately familiar with the text will know exactly what they are missing.
Staged in the round on a raised platform in a parking lot, the tree line in silhouette becomes the most realistic Burnham Wood you are likely to find. In a complete inverse of how Kentucky Shakespeare productions are illuminated in Central Park, Jesse Alford’s lighting emerges only from the stage itself, often through smoke and fog, creating an overt horror movie atmosphere that more than justifies the Halloween placement on the calendar.
The early scenes are characterized by striking steampunk aesthetics in the design work, with ominous pandemic gas masks and black leather (costumes by Donna Lawrence-Downs) and deep and dark sound design from Laura Ellis (were those distant barking dogs a part of it, or happenstance?). Director Wallace here reconnects with the genre rhythms and the scary movie tropes of his warehouse productions of Titus Andronicus from a few years back.
So elevated and dramatically underlit, there is a feeling of an elemental, pagan ritual that befits the portentous dread and ruthless, bloody ambition. The performances reinforce the notion of how crisis and the degradation of society might strip us of civility until our primeval cores are revealed. Brian Hinds and Jennifer Pennington are everything we need here as Lord and Lady M; he is wary and frightened of the unfolding fateful circumstances, while she relishes the opportunities no matter the cost and unrepentantly pushes her husband until he fully embraces the mad ambition.
The remainder of the ensemble follows suit in good form, even though the edited text somewhat restricts the dimension of the other characters. But as an exercise in dystopian horror, this Macbeth demands more heightened emotionality in the playing, and in this the capable cast delivers.
Is this the best Macbeth you will ever experience? Likely not, if only for the cutting and lack of intimacy, but you will be hard put to find another like it. This Scottish Play speaks to our moment and beyond, touching on our greatest fears about the current state of things with just enough distance to keep you from losing sleep.
Kentucky Shakespeare volunteers were very efficient in shepherding traffic and parking vehicles in an organized and socially distant arrangement, and departure was just as orderly. And there is the added delight at being able to unapologetically lean on the car horn repeatedly in lieu of applause.
Featuring Zachary Burrell, Brian Hinds, Dathan Hooper, Jon Huffman, Braden McCampbell, Jennifer Pennington, Angelica Santiago
October 7-31, 2020
Preview performances October 7-8; Opening October 9
Tickets: $25, plus $3.19 processing fee – One ticket per vehicle, advance purchase required, not available at the door
Kentucky Shakespeare1297 Trevilian Way
Louisville, Kentucky 40213
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music, and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.