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The Orlando Shakespeare Theater marks the end of its 19th season with a production of one of the Bard’s most popular plays, Macbeth, and this weekend is your last chance to catch this visually stunning and hauntingly beautiful production. Director Jim Helsinger delivers a work of art complete with killer special effects that help to overshadow some of the production’s minor shortcomings. A fast-paced, heart-pounding theatrical experience, Macbeth will be long remembered as a highlight among the company’s most creative and exciting undertakings.

Also known as “the Scottish Play” to the superstitious, Macbeth is famous for its themes associated with magic and ambition, and is thought by some to be cursed. Unless performing the play, most actors refrain from saying the name Macbeth in a theater. Not one for superstition, I was surprised that a shudder went down my spine when “Macbeth” was first proclaimed on the stage. It was unsettling, compounded by Bob Phillips’ efficient set design, complete with a giant pentacle painted on the raised octagon platform at center stage. That’s some bad gris-gris. In addition, the Margeson Theater has been converted from a thrust stage to a “theater in the round,” with audience members seated on all four sides of the stage. Instead of waiting for a play to start, it felt like we were all gathering around to witness an invocation of evil spirits. 

Once the play began, the infamous Weird Sisters (Erin Cameron-Beute, Jennifer Drew, Jennie Sirianni) emerged from the darkness and set the stage, so to speak, moving to contemporary Japanese Butoh dance choreography. The primitive nature of Butoh helps to serve as a bridge between the natural and the supernatural worlds that are in discourse throughout the drama. Bert Scott’s lighting and Matt Given’s sound designs work together to differentiate those two worlds. Denise Warner’s costume design of leather, tartans, steel and fur also helps to establish Macbeth’s environs.

 

Ian Bedford and Jean Tafler deliver standout performances as the emulous title couple and are most effective in their scenes together. Eric Zivot (Macduff) is a powerhouse of emotion and a perfect nemesis for Macbeth. The potent supporting cast includes Timothy Williams (Ross), who has never looked better in a skirt, Anne Hering (Lady Macduff), Steven Patterson (Duncan), Michael Gill (Seyton), Paul Bernardo (Banquo) and 9-year-old Owen Teague (Fleance/Young Macduff).

Only the anticlimactic fight choreography in Bedford and Zivot’s pivotal duel failed to match the intensity of the two actors and left me wanting more.

arts@orlandoweekly.com

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