Mortal Folly Theatre presents Macbeth by William Shakespeare in an enthusistically performed production of Shakespeare’s own Sweeney Todd, the demon tyrant of the Scottish Highlands. Directed by artistic director Katherine Harte-DeCoux, this production takes its conceptual cue from the line (quoted as a subtitle on the program) “blood will have blood.” And we get plenty of it, dripping, squirting, splattering the walls and floor, running down daggers and broadswords. Apart from this, the production aims for a straightforward presentation that does not so much illuminate as illustrate the Bard’s Grand Guignol. Do we need to summarize this play? Macbeth, a reluctant Scottish thane (Matthew Rini), inspired by three (here) rather pretty witches (Hannah Sloat, Alyssa Borg and Melanie Stroh), casts off his qualms about using the bodies of his betters as stepping stones to power. His wife (Liz Sklar) hardens the vague predictions of the witches into a specific plan for her husband. As the survivors of the murderous spree that catapults Macbeth to power gather forces in exile to overthrow him, and his wife is overcome by madness, the increasingly paranoid ruler goes for a second helping of advice from the practitioners of the dark arts. He misinterprets their oracle and is finally slain by Macduff.
Katherine Harte-DeCoux has assembled a talented cast of young actors, and, with the capable fight direction by fight director Nathan DeCoux, has them nimbly move from one broadsword bout to another. She also creates, aided by excellent lighting design (Bekah Hernandez) and sound (composed and sound-designed by Amanda Gookin), some moody, emotion-filled moments, and has a good hand with scene endings, letting them complete in an unhurried fashion yet without losing tension.
For anyone who is completely unfamiliar with this play and has had little exposure to Shakespeare, this might be a very exciting, action-packed rendition of Macbeth. The acting is fine. Matthew Rini in the title role and Liz Sklar as Lady Macbeth are particularly excellent, and David A. Ellis gives Banquo complexity and importance.
For those who know the play, though, this may not be quite enough. Illustration can be fine, but this is still shoestring, even if it is an expensive shoestring, where the set and costumes are lovingly prepared and there are swords aplenty,. With such a familiar text we crave for illumination, for the profound or at least clever insight. The athletic Rennaissance Faire-style presentation can be fun for the novice, but this production was good enough to leave me wanting for something more.