Review: ‘Macbeth’ Proves To Be a Moving Experience—Quite Literally
By Megan Wrappe, Contributing Writer, August 14, 2017
As someone who frequents the theatre, I’m accustomed to taking my seat and remaining there for two hours, maybe longer. This isn’t exactly how the New York Classical Theatre presents their productions. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Stephen Burdman, who also serves as this production’s director, they practice what is called “panoramic theatre,” utilizing the natural environment as its stage. In this instance, the steps of Castle Clinton located in Battery Park in Lower Manhattan become the opening scene for the three witches introducing us to Macbeth’s tale, and from that point forward, the entire audience was off and running to the next scene’s location. Needless to say, I was hooked.
Audience members were then ushered right into the middle of a battlefield, with soldiers in kilts coming from all sides. If you had ever wanted to have an insider’s view of a battle scene, this was it, and it was mesmerizing. Hearing the clink of the swords, seeing the painful facial expressions of each solider (and the faces of those quietly sitting in the park) was quite an experience.
Next, we were taken inside Castle Clinton where Macbeth secretly murders the King of Scotland so he may assume the throne. The night continued with even bloodier battle scenes and scenes fraught with emotion, bringing a full and colorful interpretation of the Bard’s text, allowing it to feel newly alive and quite visceral in the moment.
While the entire concept of locating the action throughout the various playing areas of Battery Park deserves credit, much of the accolades rests on the shoulders of the performers themselves. It’s not always easy to command the stage in a traditional indoor theatrical setting, much less when you are competing with nature itself and the potential peripheral distractions. The central role of Macbeth was excellently and professionally embodied by Will Dixon, bringing power and might to all of Macbeth’s speeches. At his side as Lady Macbeth was the enchanting Jenny Strassburg. Just watching her movement and facial expressions on stage was a performance in itself, with her strong classical theatre training providing a solid base for her interpretation. Adding an otherworldly element into Macbeth’s story were the Three Witches (Clare Fort, Olivia Russell, and Jamila Sabares-Klemm). These women brought spunk, fire and energy to their characters, as well as being fantastic leaders for the children who couldn’t help but follow at their heels during scene changes.
Even though Shakespeare wrote Macbeth a few hundred years ago, the many issues associated with power with which Macbeth struggles remain relevant today. This is why Shakespeare’s plays continue to be produced—they present universal themes and are truly timeless in their message. Do yourself a favor and check out this amazing production before “what is done, is done.”
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Macbeth presented by New York Classical Theatre at Castle Clinton, Battery Park, through August 20, 2017; additional week of performances at Brooklyn Bridge Park through August 27, 2017. Written by William Shakespeare. Directed by Stephen Burdman; production design by Sarita Fellows; voice/speech coaching by Barbara Adrian and Joan Melton; fight director: Sean Michael Chin; production stage manager: Yeti Steinman; assistant stage manager: Amanda Murphy; design assistant/wardrobe supervisor: Keturah Thorpe. Cast: Will Dixon (Macbeth), Jenny Strassburg (Lady Macbeth), Olivia Russell (Witch), Clare Fort, Jamila Sabres-Klemm (Witch), Mark Murphey (Duncan), Ian Antal (Malcolm), Ally Carey (Rosse), Josh Jeffers (Lennox), Clay Storseth (Banquo), Carter Horton (Fleance), M. Scott McLean (Macduff), Oliver Archibald (Angus), and Evan Moore-Coll (Seyton).
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Cover: (l. to r.) Clay Storseth, Will Dixon and M. Scott McLean in New York Classical Theatre’s “Macbeth;” courtesy of the company.