A User-Driven Site for Theater in Atlanta, Georgia

a Play
by William Shakespeare

COMPANY : Georgia Shakespeare [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Conant Performing Arts Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 4317

SHOWING : October 04, 2012 - October 28, 2012



Something wicked this way comes. Shakespeare’s tale of murderous ambition is reimagined and in conversation with Orson Welles’ dynamic 1936 Voodoo Macbeth. Produced in partnership with NBAF (National Black Arts Festival).
*Appropriate for ages 12 and up.

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Muddy, Pretentious, and Unpleasant
by Dedalus
Thursday, December 20, 2012
The promise (and expectation) of Georgia Shakespeare�s �Macbeth� was great. Advance word was it would be a restaging of Orson Welles classic 1936 �Voodoo Macbeth,� part of the WPA�s Federal Theatre project. Directed by iconoclast Orson Welles, that production not only re-interpreted Shakespeare�s Scottish Play as a Colonial Caribbean rebellion, it also introduced a roster full of African American actors who excelled at classical works. The bits and pieces I�ve seen showed it to be a vibrant, exciting, and compelling production.

Alas, would that this result met those expectations. In this case, Georgia Shakespeare made the choice to go with a director totally inexperienced in Shakespeare�s works, who �re-imagined Welles� production for the 21st Century.� Unfortunately, that �re-imagination� goes no deeper than adding some high-tech effects that not only draw more attention to themselves than to the text, but also serves only to muddy the story and obscure the poetry.

You know something's wrong when the most common conversation overheard at intermission is along the lines of "I'm glad I read the play, otherwise I wouldn't know what was going on." Director Raelle Myrick-Hodges has most of the actors mumble their way through their lines (when they're not pre-recorded and reverbed into incomprehensibility), has the costumer go with a "let's put them in pajamas" approach that makes character distinction and recognition a Sisyphean task, and overuses a projection design that looks as if it were filtered through a kaleidoscope (kneecapping any potential for tension or true horror).

Still, Neal Ghant's performance in the title role is a thing of beauty, and some really good fight choreography make the final conflict a joy to behold. Still, all the good bits are totally destroyed by a final moment in which the entire cast (tries) to deliver the final lines in unison.

The program tells us we�re on a Caribbean Island still under Colonial rule, though nothing we see on stage helps set that scene (besides machetes being the �weapon of choice�). Generic baggy (but comfortable-looking) costumes make no difference between soldier and citizen, between rich and poor, between witch and mortal. The plot sticks with the basic �Thane meets witches and lets overwhelming ambition lead to tragedy� outline of the original play, though here, too much of the witch�s dialogue is pre-recorded and incomprehensible, too many of the actors make no effort at clarity, too much of the story experiences chronic disconnect between the Scottish references and the Caribbean pretensions.

The dialogue problem is especially stark with Lady Macbeth, who is completely incomprehensible. At no point did I see any sense of the scheming co-conspirator, the �power-behind-the-throne� driving force that propels Macbeth into power. At no time did I see any sense of transition from the power-mad queen to the tragically disturbed repentant. Her last scene is even further hampered by having her in a silly phone-booth shaped box that blocks her face from most of the audience, pushed around on castors that drown out most of her lines.

And the projections do absolutely nothing to illuminate the story or the themes. Images roll and roil with abstract self-importance, and, in places where they would have helped (the prophecies in the pre-final-battle witch�s scene, for example) they were no more imaginative than a student �cut-and-paste� art project. They distracted and diverted my attention, and did absolutely nothing to set a scene, evoke a mood, or underscore a theme.

Which brings us to Neal Ghant. He is the reason this production has any effect, any redeeming (and memorable) quality. He gives us a Macbeth of power, of magnetism, of charisma. It�s easy to see how this man is a leader, how he achieves his goals. It�s easy to �buy into� his tragic qualities � the strengths that appeal are also the flaws that seal his fate. He is comfortable with the language and with its place in telling this story.

Credit also needs to go to Fight Directors Scot and Kelly Mann, who have staged a final encounter that is dazzling, exciting, and suspenseful. The passions and fears and frustrations of the characters were an integral part of the choreography, and it made the play more than bearable for a few too-short moments.

Indeed, this is a production that requires patience to endure, that strings together disparate moments of muddy pretense and inappropriate sentimentality. It is directed with too many self-aware gimmicks that are just that � gimmicks that show �look what we can do,� when, most often, the gimmicks add less-than-nothing to the story, to the words, to the experience.

This was, indeed, a tale full of sound and fury, all of which, in the final analyze, signified nothing.

-- Brad Rudy (

Not a Universal View by playgoer
I didn't go to see this production of "Macbeth," partly due to the vehemence of this review. But someone whose opinion I value did go to see it, and he raved that it was the best Shakespeare he'd ever seen. It seems that this version of the Scottish play was more an "experience" than a play, and not all viewers had the same experience viewing it.
Indeed! by Dedalus
Aaaaaannnd, that is why it's never a good idea to make a play-going decision based on only one person's opinion. How often have we read a review and thought "Did we even see the same show?" Of course, the strict answer to that question is "No!" The beauty of live theatre is that every performance is different, every seat gives a different perspective, and everyone has "baggage" that affect how we see a show (in more ways and to a greater degree than many of us would like to think).

Even time affects how we remember a show. In trying to clear out my backlog of reviews here, I sometimes find myself subtly adjusting a ohrase or two, or even a grade ("Did I call this show memorable? I don't remember a thing about it." or "If i hated the show that much, why is it still in my mind?")

In any case, thanks for your comments ...

-- Brad


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