3 Stars out of 4
In the 21st century we do everything fast: our attention spans run short, and we want it now. Theater companies have complied with our rewired need for abridgment, and every year Chicago Shakespeare mounts a suitable-for-field-trips version of a classic Shakespeare play. This year, the company has taken on The Scottish Play, the very dark and violent Macbeth. Adapter and director Marti Lyons has skillfully created a breathlessly paced, juicy, but not too bloody rendition of this universal tale of betrayal and raw ambition gone awry. While I truly love the full out extended edition, this 75 minute version has so much to recommend it, especially for an audience not yet well versed with the Bard. The show begins with an orientation of sorts by Cage Sebastian Pierre, who plays the charming Ross. And then we are off: Amir Abdullah is a statuesque brooding Macbeth paired with a spitfire Lady, the uncompromising Tiffany Scott. The Weyard Sisters Caroline Chu, Emma Ladji and Caitlan Taylor are Fates dancing in and out of the fast paced action. Scott Davis’s brilliant set of fluorescent tubes that turn fiery and Mieka Van Der Ploegs’s stylish costumes make this a not to be missed visual feast. Special kudos for sound designer Mikhail Fiksel who creates a dimensional sonic environment and also a score underlying scenes with a hip hop beat that pulls you into the action and makes you want to dance along. The talented actors and luxurious production values make this a treat for any audience. And even though the weekday audiences include some elementary school students, fight choreographer Matt Hawkins gives us full out sword clanging stage violence and a graphic end to Macbeth. After the show there is a chance to process what you have seen and ask questions of the actors, and there is even a chance to get a picture with your favorite character in the lobby after the show. I foresee a lot of cosplaying Macduffs next Halloween…..Purists will miss some of the signature monologues but this #Short Shakespeare hits all the main plot points and perhaps it can whet an appetite for the unabridged version. So many schools require a reading of the play and bringing it to life like this makes it visceral and relevant to a new generation.
Short Shakespeare!Macbeth is is running Saturdays at 11 am from now until March 16th at the Chicago Shakespeare’s Courtyard Theatre on Navy Pier : if you know schoolkids that should see it, there are weekday matinees available and they will be touring to schools across the region through April 12, 2019.For tickets and information go to www.ChicagoShakes.com or call 312-596-5600.