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Blood, Bones, Sinew, and Heart

May 25, 2015

MACBETH_at_ZJU_Theatre_870-70The Scottish Play returns to Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre! Denise Devin (adaptation and direction) once again shows she knows how to distil The Bard into a one hour performance.

Everyone knows the story, so I’ll get to the meat, and blood of this review. The blood and sinew of the story is Amir Khalighi’s Macbeth. All connections run through him, either directly by his blood and actions, or connections to those connected to him like so much sinew. His mastery of diction is spot on. He is able to dance around every complex line as if it were nothing. You feel his madness, his anger, his paranoia. Amir alwasye projects a strong presence on stage, never more than when he is reciting Shakespeare though. He brings such vitality into his characters, you become fully engrossed in the reality that slowly overwrites your own.

If Amir provides the blood and sinew Melissa Kite as Lady Macbeth provides the heart of this performance. I won’t lie; Lady Macbeth has never been a sympathetic character for me. She is a strong woman, who knows what she wants and goes after it. She brings about her own madness and sorrow though. It’s her greed and ambition that drive her mad, moreso than her actions. This time around Melissa sells the pain and suffering, the fractured mind her nervous ticks. She brought out sympathy for a character I never cared for. I’d long admired the character, but considered her fall a just one. Now, thanks to Melissa, I felt sorry for her.

Amir and Melissa provided the Heart, blood and connections of this performance of Macbeth. The rest of the ensemble provided the bones, the framework. Without their strength, and versatility, nothing could be built upon. Mark Hein moving from killed, to killer, to concerned physician. Moving from role to role, taking care that each has their own center of gravity. Duncan projects his confidence and love of countryman from his chest, and throat, as a Porter and killer he is slouched, furtive, and mysterious. His coconspirators know now where he comes from.

Jason Britt as Macduff, a man driven mad by the loss of his wife and child; his grief, palpable, if there were rafters at ZJU his voice would have shaken them. Both Amir and Jason had the difficult task of shouting their lines through faces much contorted by emotion. Both pulled this of wonderfully. You can not only make out each complex line, you feel them as you witness their madness and grief respectively.

Each member of the cast added something. Jonica Patella as Ross, adding that nervous element a minor character sworn to others has. Ross delivers pivotal information to others several times during the story, and must be aware of his surroundings. Deliver the wrong information, in the wrong fashion and he will pay for it, though he is just the messenger.

The Witches played by Arielle Davidsohn, Emily Cunningham, and Angela Robitaille were quite a sight. At first formless in the dark, then clad in Woad paint and just enough coverings to let you know these aren’t old hags, but proper, powerful, beautiful Witches. I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of their attentions, accept I would, anyone would want such a fate.

Every member of this performance stands out for more than one reason, even those I failed to mention here. You’re sure to find several somethings to catch your attention in this run of Macbeth.

Shakespeare is hard to pull off, harder still to compress into less than half its running time. Denise is proving again and again this is just one of her wheelhouses. She balances the story, with the characters, the timing and action on stage. I’d venture to say, if you aren’t familiar with Shakespeare, anything adapted by Denise at ZJU is the place to start. Cut your teeth on a trimmed down version, one that still has all the blood, bone, heart and sinew.

Macbeth (by William Shakespeare, Driected and Adapted by Denise Devin) Runs Fridays at 8:30pm Sundays 7pm through May 31st at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre in North Hollywood.

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