Thursday, January 08, 2009


Many things can be praised about the Acme Theatre Company's production of "Macbeth," which continues through Friday at the Veterans' Memorial Theater.

Unfortunately, the ticketing system is not one of them. Customers were lined up out to the street prior to Saturday evening's performance, causing the curtain to be held at least 15 minutes. A separate line for "will call" might cut the congestion a bit.

Once inside the theater, though, I found little about which to complain.

Patrons are seated on the stage, rather than in the audience; this significantly reduces the number of seats, and thus results in a sold-out house and a more intimate setting for the play.

The stark set design is by John Ramos, based on a concept by Hannah May and Danielle Wogulis. It's a simple gray set, with painted darker gray tree branches on the floor, and matching blocks that are moved around to indicate various settings. A pipe ladder arrangement hangs on either side of the stage; this is used by the three witches, who remain on stage throughout most of the play.

The total effect is perfect, and well complemented by Hope Raymond's costume design, also in a gray theme. The red accents for Macbeth and Lady Macbeth — down to Lady Macbeth's ruby slippers — are a perfect indicator of the bloody story to follow.

(It's fairly safe to say that none of the characters in this Shakespeare tragedy "lives happily ever after.")

Kate McFarland's dramatic lighting design adds much to the atmosphere.

Director Emily Henderson guides a first-rate cast, starting with John Ramos, who is outstanding in the title role. He's strong and takes command of the stage, yet his descent into madness — as his power-hungry killing spree begins to weigh heavily on his soul — is quite effective.

His relationship with his wife (Delany Pelz) is passionate and believable. Pelz's diminutive stature and sweet face might cause one to doubt her ability to portray the cold-hearted Lady Macbeth, but this character can be as heartlessly cruel toward her enemies as she can be lustily passionate with her husband.

In a gender-bending switch from the traditional, the three witches are played by Geoffrey Albrecht, Torin Lusebrink and David Conard. These "witches" are more evil sprites, dressed all in gray, with flowing capes and body painting to match the set. Lusebrink added something to make his tongue and lips ruby red, which makes the lizard-like movements of the former that much more evil.

It's a different look at the witches, and sometimes goes a bit overboard, but it's definitely unique and memorable. (A little more dry ice in the witches' pot is recommended.)

Others in the cast are equally memorable. Sean Olivares is quite good as Banquo, although his later return as Mentieth is a bit disconcerting, since nothing is done to change his appearance following his "death."

Likewise, a bit of a different look would help Alex Kravitz's dual roles of Duncan and the Porter.

Kate McFarland is a noble Macduff, and Vivian Breckenridge is strong and self-assured as she strides the stage as Malcolm. Hope Raymond is a beautiful Lady Macduff, very earnest in her expressions of concern for her husband and child.

David Chandler is listed as fight choreographer, and the play does feature some excellent sword fighting. Unfortunately, older children in the audience found it funny, and their giggling distracted the rest of us from the actual plot. But the cast gets high marks not only for the execution of the sword fighting, but also for the application of blood streaks on bodies while on stage, unobserved by the audience.

Acme has another winner with its production of this Shakespeare classic.

But do allow plenty of time to get through the ticket line, even if your tickets are confirmed.

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