By Raphael Badagliacca
Virtue is hard to come by. But you can find it for the next four days — through Sunday, January 20th — in New York Shakespeare Company’s production of Macbeth.
By “virtue” I mean adherence to the truth of something by not being afraid to push limits, add elements, and find relevance through attitude, creativity and sheer persistence. That is not so easy when the 400-year old words in the script belong to the greatest dramatist of all time and have been performed with reverence before audiences more times than there are stars in the sky.
Let me say it a different way. There were certain passages that I have seen performed numerous times and read just as many or more, but I only “heard” them for the first time tonight.
Kudos go to David Hywel Baynes who not only plays the lead but directed the play — the kind of ambition worthy of a general possessed with the desire to be king. If we took away the words, we feel he could have played the part with the expressions in his eyes alone. When he sees hallucinations, we see them too, even when there is no actor embodying them. He conveys at points the subtlest sense of humor, one more piece of brilliant randomness in a figure coming apart at the seams.
Charlotte Bydwell gives us a Lady Macbeth full of intensity, roiling beneath the surface, rational, rooted, focused and finally overwhelmed by the weight of events. We sleepwalk with her. Music choices throughout the performance give moments in the play the strange life they deserve. Bydwell’s choreographed movements are lithe and expressive, as are those of the other actors, all of whom transform into dancers.
Music and choreography add that extra element alongside the intensity the actors all possess. The weird sisters played by the ever-versatile John Lampe (who is also Rosse), Deb Radloff (who is also Duncan and Seyton) and Nazlah Black (who is also Lady MacDuff and Malcom) are convincing and entertaining. Weird as they may seem, there is nothing weird about their predictions, considering the outcomes. When reality becomes strained, what is weird and what is not?
The way emotions play across the face of Mark Ryan Anderson’s MacDuff as he processes news of the tragedy that has befallen, tears us apart. This is the emotional highpoint of the action, the measure of damage, along with the final moments of Nazlah Black as Lady MacDuff. Both actors excel. We already knew things had gone too far; but this is where we truly feel it.
And let’s not forget Banquo? The initial betrayal. Peter Evangelista’s Banquo is as stunned as we are.
Not enough can be said about composer Michael Wysong and choreographer Bridget Bose. Their contributions are the difference that makes a difference in this production. The rock selections and the way the dancers move is unexpected; that all the actors dance at once expresses how we are all swept up in the swirl of events. That the choice of music is both meaningful and modern makes a tale of struggles a thousand years ago in a far-off place strike a chord today.
Macbeth at Shetler Studios this weekend is like that seashell on the beach whose extraordinary colors will not let you pass unless you pick it up. Pick it up.
MACBETH by William Shakespeare, Directed by David Hywel Baynes.
With Mark Ryan Anderson, David Hywel Baynes, Nazlah Black, Charolotte Bydwell, Peter Evangelista, John Lampe, Deb Radloff.
Composer: Michael Wysong; Choreography: Bridget Bose; Stage Manager: Becky Runnells.
Shetler Studios, 244 West 54th Street, NYC runs Thursday – Sunday, 7:30PM; & Saturday 2:30PM until January 20 Tickets: https://nyscmacbeth.brownpapertickets.com/