Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Play: Mean Girls

MAC BETH adapted and directed by Erica Schmidt from the play by William Shakespeare, Seattle Rep through 17 June (extended to 24 June)

The current Rep season kicked off with The Odyssey, an amazing production that celebrated the amateur, starring most of the Seattle zip code in an updated presentation of a elder great work. And we close with something similar - Shakespeare's Macbeth performed in a vacant lot by a troupe from a girl's school.

There are differences - Odyssey was a full adaptation, while Mac Beth is an almost straight reading (Almost too much so, but more on that later). and while Odyssey embraced its amateur roots, the cast for Mac Beth are all-star rookies. Charlotte Schwieger in the title role has previous New York experience, but she and the bulk of the cast are making their Seattle Rep debuts, and many were involved in the MAC BETH Workshop at the Rep last year to work the play out. These are newcomers to the stage, making their first serious forays. Let me give you names, just so in future years you can can connect them to this particular time and place: Tamsen Glaser, Analiese Emerson Guettinger, Sophie Kelly-Hedrick, Izabel Mar, Laakan McHardy, Klarissa Marie Robles. All have their assigned roles (Banquo, Witch, Witch, Lady Macbeth, Witch, and MacDuff), but they fluidly fill in all the other tasks in the play (messengers, soldiers, kings, victims) as need.

The young women, dressed in school cloaks and skirts that give off an Scottish vibe, gather in aforementioned vacant lot and put on a performance of Macbeth for their own benefit. They rush about and scream and check their cell phones. But they are also witches who greet Macbeth and make prophesies, old kings and violated trusts, weird sisters who call upon dark things. There is a transformation here as they dance between the lines of play and playing serious. The play warns of graphic violence (to which one responds  - "Pfft it's Shakespeare! of COURSE there is graphic violence"), but once it descends you have to ask if these are truly girls but rather vessels possessed by the elder goddesses.

I will be frank, it left me unnerved, but the Lovely Bride nodded and understood. Which made me even more concerned.

Indeed, this is one of the best performances of Macbeth I have seen, including serious attempts of older adults armed with the text itself. They do not translate the text into the modern speak, and the anachronisms of selfies and texting are less intrusive than for many presentations of the Bard watched over the years. The girls are playing it straight, for good and ill. Bits of light stagecraft do not interfere with the play that is the thing.

Macbeth is much-quoted, and the quotes are kept within. Its transformations of character within the text are touched upon, grasped by the actresses, and internalized in a way that I often do not see on the stage from elders. I am, as I said, troubled, by the border between play and utmost seriousness, between the real and the fictive, between the solid and the magical.

The play is extended by a week, I've been informed, which is a good thing. It is an excellent ending to a very strong year at the Rep, one that zigged and zagged with risks like this and the Odyssey, with excellent original plays like The Great Leap and Familiar, With the familiar in Austen, August Wilson, and Irving Berlin. And with the occasional mis-step in The Humans.  MAC BETH closes out the season, and is worth seeing. And being disquieted about.

More later.