MACBETH Director Joe Jordan,
Recipient of a 2002 Garland Award Honorable Mention for
MACBETH Music & Sound Designer, Jef Bek!
Nominated for a 2002 Ovation Award for Best Sound Design
and Recipient of a 2002 Garland Award Honorable Mention for
From the Director of last year's acclaimed
Comedy of Errors... 7
Actors...1 Horrifying Deed...
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Joe Jordan
lives up to its full name!" -
heart-wrenching and sublime!" -
LA Weekly (Recommended!)
drama at its highest!...
A definite notch in the
Sacred Fools' belt!" -
for the whirlwind that is Macbeth!" - Backstage West
the Sacred Fools Mainstage... Thursday -
Saturday @ 8pm
July 18 - August 24, 2002
August 31, 2002!
Reservations: (310) 281-8337
Jay Edward Anthony - Chad Brummet - Amy Bryson
Jeff Elam - Mark TJ Lifrieri - Jessie Thompson - Christine Zirbel
classic tale of ambition gone awry, stripped down to its gripping, harrowing
essence....Just seven actors portray all of Shakespeare's characters in this
stylized, physical production.
what happens when fate and love conspire to make one man's dream come true - if
he'll do just one horrifying deed...
& Sound Design Jef Bek
Sheryl Lynn Davey
Rex Austin Barrow
& Costume Design
Amy Bryson & Jessie Thompson
Director Scott Rabinowitz
WEEKLY - * Recommended!
Jeff Elam & Amy Bryson
Using a cast of just seven actors,
director Joe Jordan has given the Bard’s tragedy a refreshing, effective
mounting. Jay Edward Anthony, Chad Brummet, Amy Bryson, Jeff Elam, Mark
T.J. Lifrieri, Jessie Thompson and Christine Zir bel switch roles
throughout with amazing fluidity in this sleek, spirited production, with
bagpipe music and a wonderfully atmospheric use of drums throughout,
courtesy of musical director/sound designer Jef Bek. If there is a glitch
in this show, it’s in the hot and cold performance of Elam in the title
role, who sometimes speaks his lines as if he were auditioning for a spot
in one of those fast-talk commercials, thereby reducing the Bard’s
soaring prose and some of the play’s most dynamic and emotionally
gripping moments to bland trifles. In stark contrast, Bryson is
outstanding as Lady Macbeth; her "sleepwalking" scene is
heart-wrenching and sublime. Bryson and Thompson’s eerie, minimalist set
design neatly underscores the play’s forbidding tenor, which is nicely
complemented by Rex Austin Barrow’s lighting.
Stagings of Shakespeare's
more frequently produced works often seem to spring up with no new insight
or experiment spurring them on or in adaptations that have little if
anything to do with the plays. Director Joe Jordan's production is not one
of these. In it, there are some deeply satisfying reflections on the text;
notably, Jordan's fast-paced staging--which uses only seven actors and
minimal props--feels custom built for the whirlwind that is Macbeth,
and the necessity of having female actors jump into male roles amplifies
the play's gender dynamic as we see masculine and feminine characteristics
occurring independently from physical sex. Jordan also approaches--and may
yet achieve--the goal set forth in his note: to focus on the bare elements
of storytelling, thereby allowing the story to take precedence. This mark
was narrowly missed on opening night, but one suspects that with the
benefit of a few more performances the show will reach its potential.
While Jordan's is a bare staging, it's by no means a simple affair. The
actors not only play multiple characters, they also perform much of the
accompaniment on large drums, flute, and percussive bones that emit clouds
of bone dust when clacked together. The live effects are combined with
recorded music by musical director/composer/sound designer Jef Bek to
create a soundtrack with elements of relentless masculine drive and
feminine magic. Along with the production's intricate choreography--the
actors stay onstage most of the time, either manning instruments or ready
to jump into a scene--there are costumes to be manipulated. Tunics with
long sashes by Amy Bryson and Jessie Thompson (who also provide a striking
set) are worn in myriad configurations to portray a lady, a soldier, a
king, a young boy. These technical elements boil down to lithe
storytelling, and judging from their graceful execution on the night
reviewed, one would think the show had been up for weeks. In general, the
cast does an excellent job juggling the various roles; especially
memorable are Jordan's highly choreographed Sisters (Bryson, Thompson, and
Christine Zirbel), Jay Edward Anthony's Macduff, Chad Brummet's Malcolm,
and Mark TJ Lifrieri's Banquo.
Some elemental matters, however, took a while to fall into place. In the
first half, there were a few inconsistencies--loud, stylized deliveries
mixed with moments so small and filmic as to be barely audible. Jeff Elam
as Macbeth hit his stride by Act Four and began to mold a compelling
villain/victim, but stiffness, tentativeness, and a few line trip-ups
seemed to impede his performance early on. Consequently the evolution of
his character was not as clear as that of Bryson's chilly, haunted Lady
Macbeth. But the quick progress of one evening bodes well for the rest of
discussion, the titles of Shakespeare's plays usually are shortened to
just the protagonists' names: "Hamlet," "Othello,"
"King Lear" and so on. But the Sacred Fools production of
"The Tragedy of Macbeth" puts such eloquent emphasis on
Macbeth's self-inflicted downfall that it demands to be known by the full
Shakespeare's story roughly parallels that of Adam and Eve in the Garden
of Eden. The Scottish Lord and Lady Macbeth live in grace as favorites of
the king. But once greatness is whispered in Macbeth's ear, it drowns out
everything else. With his wife as conspirator, he murders the king and
attains the crown, only to be cast out of paradise.
Director Joe Jordan relates this sprawling story with just seven
identically dressed actors, from whom he has coaxed vigorously physical
performances. The set and costumes are drenched in a color that looks,
portentously, like dried blood, and the action is ominously underscored by
electronic hums, thundering drums and the shrieks of plucked piano strings
(composed by Jef Bek).
Jeff Elam, who plays Macbeth, is less physically imposing than the
muscular Jay Edward Anthony, who plays King Duncan, or Mark TJ Lifrieri,
who plays betrayed buddy Banquo. This lends Macbeth a poignant sense of
ordinariness and vulnerability.
With her porcelain face and cascade of dark curls, Amy Bryson's Lady
Macbeth also looks delicate. But sexual heat and sheer force of will make
her powerful. Whenever Macbeth wavers in his bloody plan, she is there to
urge him on.
Again and again, Jordan (who staged last summer's Brazilian
carnival-flavored "The Comedy of Errors" at Sacred Fools) puts
the action into unexpected perspective, enabling it to be seen in telling
new ways. When the king and his retinue arrive at Macbeth's home, for
instance, they are left waiting for several uncomfortable moments at the
gate--a little snub that forebodes the deadly one to come. Shortly
thereafter, Lady Macbeth arrives as Macbeth is nearing the end of a
soliloquy. He trails off, embarrassed to have been caught talking to
When the performers--who also include Chad Brummet, Jessie Thompson and
Christine Zirbel--aren't part of the action, they're manning the
While it's a neat theatrical stunt to have so few actors tackling so many
roles, confusion is unavoidable. ("Isn't that the king? I thought he
was dead." "No, that actor is playing Macduff now.")
The payoff comes in the end, when the multiple casting adds psychological
dimension to Macbeth's final moments. His first combatant on the
battlefield is his former Lady Macbeth. And when Macbeth finally faces the
entwined king/Macduff, the king seems to be acting through Macduff to see
that justice is served.
"Is his a parking space I
see before me, the white lines 'round my car?"
Treason, back stabbing, lies and other
foul deeds filled the chill night air. And that was only the parking
lot at the Sacred Fools Theatre, where people were trying to jockey their
cars in place just before the performance. On stage, the presentation is
sheer drama at its highest, unique and creative and sure to be emulated in
The familiar story of a man and his lady,
driven by ambition and desire, gets a new working over by the Fools, who
are no fools when it comes to presenting classic Shakespeare.
Stark and Spartan in set design, the
story vibrates with tension and force, and when you hear the staccato
drumming and other effects, chills actually creep up and down the spine.
There are many factors that contribute
to the success of the presentation. Certainly the costuming is
unique, simple, classic and reminiscent of a cloistered order whose
secrets are not for the world. The dark walls and lighting
foreshadow the blackest deeds and minds of the protagonists, and the
unique music adds a wintry cast to the coldness of their hearts.
No one is colder and more heartless than
Lady Macbeth as played by Amy Bryson who manipulates her husband (Jeff
Elam) to perform the foulest of deeds. Elam's Macbeth has an
excellent blend of ambition, madness, but mostly a sense of helpless lack
of power to deal with his lady.
Macduff is a potent character, and Jay
Edward Anthony lives the part with enthusiasm and well placed
disdain for the murdering Macbeth.
The dialog is mostly true to the original,
the classic speeches ("Is this a dagger . . . Out damn spot . .
.") are excellent, and the witches' incantation is thoroughly
convincing that something wicked will this way come.
Director Joe Jordan has done a masterful
job mounting the play, with only seven actors to play all the parts.
This gutsy move, which is viewed as being able to focus on the bare
elements of story telling, could also be his Achilles heel. For
those familiar with the story, it's not too hard to refocus and tell who
is playing what part, even though the face is now supposed to be someone
else. For those who come to Shakespeare for the first time, this
could be very confusing and confounding and the essence of the story could
be lost in trying to figure out who is who (whom?).
Zirbel, Jessie Thompson
& Amy Bryson
So Chad Brummet comes on as Malcom and
then Porter, and then as a murderer, and Jay Edward Anthony is Macduff,
but also Duncan and a murderer; Mark TJ Lifrien is a Sergeant, Banquo, a
Doctor and Siward, and Jessie Thompson is Donalbain, Angus, Fleance, Lady
Macduff, a gentlewoman and a witch. Christine Zirbel is Ross, Seyton
and a witch and besides Lady Macbeth, Amy Bryson is a witch, and also
McDuff's son. Jeff Elam must feel under employed, since he only
The play is a definite notch in the
Sacred Fools' belt, and multiple roles or not, the cast does a terrific
and convincing job proving again that when a project is carefully planned
and done with true feeling, the result has to be a definite plus.