There are few things I drag my lazy self out of the house for, but Shakespeare is usually one of them. I did, after all, work at a renowned Southern Shakespeare theatre for 8 years.
So was the Wilma’s Macbeth worth the train ride to Center City? Well, yes and no.
Yes, because it featured some stunning visuals: the weird sisters crawling up and down the walls, the variable and emotional use of lighting throughout, the Birnam Wood reveal. And no, because none of these interesting visuals translated into an emotional affective experience. Yes, because the Wilma’s space is beautiful and worth seeing; no, because a fantastic space alone can’t make up for a lack of connection with the audience and the other actors onstage. Yes, because Lady Macbeth’s unraveling was compelling to watch; and no, because, aside from the “Out, damn spot” scene, neither she nor anyone else on the stage seemed to have much business performing Shakespeare.
The Wilma had never tackled the Bard before, and to be honest, it shows. Nearly every actor threw out their lines like grand pronouncements — they seemed to be eternally conscious that were Doing Shakespeare. But the poetry of early modern theatre works best if you treat it like normal language, as the actors of PAC’s The Duchess of Malfi did.
I thought at least seeing Macbeth around Halloween-time would be a good, spooky theatre-going experience, but the play is strangely bloodless. The production outright ignores the text when Banquo appears at the banquet scene: though Macbeth plainly calls his visage “gory,” the Wilma’s Banquo was spotlessly clean, attired in white, and not even very scary. I haven’t seen a better Halloween production to recommend (I hear Carrie is getting panned), but I can tell you the creep-factor just isn’t here.
Macbeth is evidently popular enough that the Wilma has extended its run until November 13th. But really, I’d recommend saving your $30+ and renting yourself a scary movie instead.