Producing Shakespeare is no easy feat. Fab Marquee undertakes this ambitious task with their production of Macbeth of the Oppressed. Billed as a Multicultural cast, they utilize a diverse crew of actors to tell their tale. However, their concept is only half-baked and leaves us wondering if they have really delivered on their assertions.
How far would you go to get the crown? What would you do to remain in power? These questions are central to Macbeth of the Oppressed. After receiving a prophecy from the Three Witches, which hails Macbeth as the soon to be king, Macbeth becomes obsessed with rising to power and, once there, remaining untouchable. Through murder, deceit, and ominous plots, Macbeth’s rise to glory comes at a significant price. This play proves that for every action there is a consequence.
I’ve seen many Shakespearean plays where actors of different ethnicities are used. Thus this production, while they definitely have some diversity, is not doing anything extraordinary in their casting. If you are going to claim multiculturalism, we expect more than just a few ethnic actors interspersed. Also, the title leaves unanswered questions; who is being oppressed? Right now, this is a modern take on Macbeth, but offers little information on what makes this production about Of the Oppressed, What this production does well lies in its cross-gendered casting. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are gay lovers and Macduff is a lesbian. This is perhaps the most interesting element of the production. Yet, it was unclear what the purpose behind these casting choices are.
Concepts aside, the show itself only partially works. Macbeth, played by Anthony Minino is hard to understand. The audience has trouble following him, especially during moments of great emotion when his speech gets more blurred. But Minino is not the only challenge, many of the actors are clearly “acting” on stage. Susan G. Bob plays “Queen” Duncan and is so deliberate in her choices and vocalization that we wonder if she’s truly connecting with anyone. “Master” Macbeth played by David Stallings also emotes well, but it comes across as fake as it is too heightened. These are good actors working very hard, but it is too forced and thus appears over-the top and not believable.
Yet, there are some bright spots. Elisabeth Preston plays Banquo well. She sinks into her character and delivers her dialogue with sincerity. We believe her as she is not trying to force anything to happen. Taylor Graves turns in a solid performance as Lady Macduff. The Three Witches played by James Edward Becton, Lavita Shaurice, and Briana Sakamoto do a nice job providing the mystery and magic of the piece. They are on stage much of the time and add a great eeriness to the play.
The costumes, designed by Izzy Fields enhance the production value and give us a sense of time and place. Visually, the production is appealing. Daniel Gallagher does good work in lighting the play. The production has some potential and moments of success, but it needs to be rounded out to make it more cohesive.
Runs now through October 24, 2015 at the theater at the Y, 344 East 14th St. http://www.fabmarqueeproductions.com