The Scottish Play, Revisited

First things first: “MacBeth,” spelled backwards, is “The B Cam.” Well, almost. Playing on its near palindromic title, TheBcam/MacBeth sets out to pick up, like a filmic B Camera, the secondary shots implied by Shakespeare’s famous play. It does so by condensing the Shakespearan text, juxtaposing it with new work by Don Nigro, splattering live and prerecorded video feeds across the backdrop, and choreographing a few zany, full company movement pieces. Such an approach ought to square neatly with the Inertia Production’s mission, as the company seeks “new ways to synthesize text, physical performance and media.” Unfortunately, this production offers less synthesis than it does incoherence. MacBeth is perhaps the mother of all horror stories, yet under the direction of Kevin Kittle, TheBcam/Macbeth forgoes the original’s fear factor, and with it, its dramatic tension. Maybe because the production focuses so heavily on the ripple effects of the play’s themes, the Macbeth segments here serve more as source material than as dramatic content. It’s not that the Shakespearean performances are uneven -- just the opposite. As Macbeth and Lady MacBeth, Charlie Sandlan and Danielle Liccardo are consistent to the point of predictability, which prevents the cautionary tale of power hunger from achieving a compelling depth. Their most famous lines (“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,” and “Out, out, damned spot!”) come across as mere placeholders, marking the inexorable progression of a familiar plot.

The company fares better with the original material, written by Don Nigro and the ensemble. In particular, a series of exchanges between a pair of young teens (Robert James Walsh and Carrie Watt) sparks with a palpable unease from which the whole production would benefit. The production suggests a relationship between the contemporary teens and a kitschy pair of fifties housewives, yet their oblique connection doesn’t make a lot of sense, and the housewives’ alcoholism is unconvincing as high camp.

Additional contemporary sequences include a diatribe against the perils of being an attractive single woman that is as fresh as a rerun of Sex and the City, though Liccardo delivers it with appropriately self-assured indulgence, and an imagined game show in which a contestant (Michele Slater) identifies YouTube videos by the horrific things YouTube commenters have written about them. The game show scene is an inventive, insightful take on contemporary aggression, yet rather than integrate it into the production as a whole, Kittle relegates it to the intermission, when much of the audience is out of the house, and bound to miss it. That’s a shame, because the YouTube game show, more than any other element of the production, elucidates the Shakespearean themes of power, cruelty and spectacle within new media.

The original video segments, designed by Theo Macabeo, are better integrated into the performance, though for a production that aims to take mediated elements as a central theme, the images do surprisingly little. Projected against the painted white backdrops of Doug Durlacher’s sets, TheBcam/Macbeth’s mediated images compliment the production much as a shifting scenic painting might. They are overpowered by the specter of the YouTube video which closes the intermission and, for those who catch it, creepily haunts the play’s second act.

At two and a half hours, TheBcam/Macbeth is a long production that encompasses a lot of disparate elements. Still, audience members most excited by the production’s promises should stay in their seats for the intermission.

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