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One of the nice things about writing this review of MACBETH, currently running in repertory at the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival in Prescott, is that I don't have to say anything about the play. For anyone who isn't familiar with this over 400-year-old story of ambition, betrayal and murder, the plot is summarized very nicely in the program.
Rather than setting the play in a specific period, Director Ian Farthing sees the story as timeless. Set and Costume Designer Andrea Robertson has largely succeeded in carrying out this idea. The set is a series of geometrically painted panels that provide a backdrop with various entrances.
Her costumes for the men are in shades of gray and black and are a mixture of kilts, leggings, tunics, jackets, belts and ties that works very well. The spirits' costumes are clever, but seem a bit hazardous on the steps. Those of the witches are fun but don't really work, as they look too much as if they belong in CABARET. The Macbeths are elegant in silver and black, while for Act II Lady Macbeth adds a blood-red underskirt and her husband a red collar. It all contributes to a distinctive and cohesive look.
Mr. Farthing has made good use of music. The play opens with a male octet singing a stirring version of "Loch Lomond." Music Director Melissa Morris, who also plays one of the witches, has come up with a haunting vocal entrance for the Weird Sisters. Daniel Giverin supplies extremely effective violin underscoring during the Macduff murders and the sleepwalking scene.
Warren Bain does a nice job as Malcolm, particularly in the final scene. The witches seem too bubbly with no air of malevolence, however Colleen Winton does just fine doubling as the Doctor. Michael MacDonald gives a solid performance as Lennox, while Pierre Brault makes a fiery but sensitive Macduff, although he needs to take it easy vocally. Brent Buchanan doubles as the stalwart Ross and the ribald Porter and is very good in both roles.
As Lady Macbeth, Kerry Ann Doherty falls a bit flat in the sleepwalking scene, but has good chemistry with Kris Joseph as Macbeth, especially in Act I. Mr. Joseph, although an experienced actor, seems just too young for the role. None of the soliloquies really land, although he handles the language well. His strongest scenes are those with the ghost and that following Duncan's murder, although his recovery from the latter seems to happen too quickly and easily.
Daniel Giverin is excellent as Banquo, particularly in his scenes with Fleance, well played by Lara Kessides. The strongest performance is that of Alix Sideris as Lady Macduff. Her scene with Jacob Isaac as clever Young Macduff is thoroughly believable and lights up the stage.
Mr. Farthing has staged the play well, using the amphitheatre steps and even the audience during the Porter's scene. I also liked the treatment of Macbeth's head. Dorian Foley's fight choreography works, although on opening night it looked under-rehearsed.
Part of the charm of the Prescott setting is the warbling birds, passing boats in the river and, this year, costumed participants from Prescott's bicentennial celebration strolling past. Another attraction is the intense concentration of the audience. As my companion remarked, "They all really want to be here."
On a scale of one to five the material of course gets a five while the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival production of MACBETH gets a three for an average of four buoys. For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.