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They say: “Imagine a world where women are kings, warriors and murderers, while men are witches and gentlewomen. This is the world of Mme. Macbeth. Macbeth is a woman. Lady Macbeth is a man. Not camp. Macbeth as you’ve never seen it.”
Brett’s Take: Curiously, I have seen it; in fact, I’ve now seen more versions of Macbeth with cross-gender casting than I have original-gender ones. Which of course doesn’t mean that you, reader, have had the experience—-but it does mean I feel confident now in saying that gender-switching has almost no effect on Macbeth in the end, either positive or negative. A schemer is a schemer, a victim is a victim, an avenger is an avenger, and a complex, tragic anti-villain the same whether XY or XX; for all the talk of mother’s milk and manning up, the play is really about nothing directly to do with gender so much as what kind of person’s capable of what. It’s not Twelfth Night.
Which leaves the ambitious King’s Players with nothing more or less than a serviceable and fleet-footed 85-minute Scottish play. It is exciting to see ladies dig in to these meaty roles and kick some ass with swords, and if anything, Mme. Macbeth makes the argument that all theaters should go on ahead and do that more: Don’t think about themes and concepts too hard, just put some awesome women into some classic awesome roles. Kimberly Pyle makes this case as a mature and sympathetic Banquo, as does Alexia Poe as an imposing and unbridled Macduff, as do young actors Brittany Morgan and Jane Gibbins-Harding as pint-sized murderers, quietly natural and relaxed one moment and disturbingly capable of both giving and receiving violence the next.
Which brings us to Lady Macbeth herself, played by director and company founder Timothy R. King, and her husband, Macbeth, portrayed by Kat Gadway—-and the biggest letdowns of the show. (Here let us note that the original pronouns are kept in place; as advertised, no one plays camp, so it’s as if, in this Scotland, the words ‘he’ and ‘she’ mean the opposite.) It may be that King was overburdened directing himself, by himself, without a credited assistant, while adapting to the challenging Redrum space; small, frequent problems add up to a sometimes frustrating experience. Actors (particularly poor Gadway) speak whole speeches to the upstage wall; entrances come too early, walking on other actors’ monologues; the words are often terribly rushed. Gadway is riveting, brooding, and badass, when she stays focused, but many, many of her words are barely above a whisper, spoken as quickly as possible, or both.
Several others suffer the same problem, as if concerned with the running time; most only buckle down and get passionate during Danny Rovin‘s thrilling fight choreography. (And let’s slide another credit in here for Elizabeth Reeve‘s Scottish pastiche of costumes, making the most of color and material on a small budget.) Somewhat disturbingly, only the men—-three of them, each playing a witch plus one other female role, including King—-seem to really take their time to pace out Shakespeare’s verse, bringing to full life the Lady Macduff scene and perhaps two others. Elsewise, this Mme. Macbeth is more of a lightly skipping tour across a catalog of stabbings and schemings than a journey deep into the darkness.
See it if: You want a palate cleanser of Shakespeare plus lasses kicking asses in your Fringe.
Skip it if: You’d prefer to sup full with horrors.