Guest drama critic, Stephen Wells, reviews the acclaimed production of Macbeth, playing now through February 17, at Two River Theater.
It’s understandable that Two River Theater Company in Red Bank is making a big deal out of the well-known Teller (of Penn &…) co-directing its current production of “Macbeth” in collaboration with its imaginative artistic director, Aaron Posner.
What might be misleading is that they’re promoting “Magic Designed by Teller” as well, which suggests an evening of Shakespeare with Houdini-style tricks thrown in, when in fact his use of prestidigitation here is much more subdued and organic to the text, and is hardly the defining characteristic of this Gothic production.
That distinction belongs to the blood – more blood than has likely appeared on a stage in this part of the country since the ill-fated Broadway musical “Carrie” back in 1988, as well as a final blood “effect” that, whether intended or not, serves as an ironic homage to that show.
Most of the gore comes after intermission. Until that time the compelling focus is on the evolving conspiratorial relationship between the Scottish thane and his Lady; as played here by Ian Merrill Peakes and Kate Eastwood Norris, this irresistibly resembles a fraternity jock being led by the nose into criminality by a possessed seductress whose erotic charms overcome whatever reasoning powers he has.
What Teller and Posner have wrought is a common man’s “Macbeth,” played as if to the groundlings of the Elizabethan era. And curiously, except for the “knock-knock” jokes they’ve added during the evening’s one comedic interlude, it probably comes closer to what Shakespeare originally intended than the more regal interpretations to which one has become accustomed.
— by Stephen Wells