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An epic tale on a meager scale

Something, well, not that bad comes in Shakespeare Orange County's 'Macbeth.'

August 13, 2004|Lynne Heffley | Times Staff Writer

The hair-raiser in Shakespeare Orange County's relatively sanitized, open-air "Macbeth" at the Festival Amphitheatre is whether two actors will inadvertently decapitate each other during the clash and lunge of some quite lethal-looking swordplay.

Not that the dark tale of a brave warrior who butchers his way to damnation must drip in slasher movie gore. Trevor Norton's abstract, bold ramp set and William Georges' artful tartan shadows are sufficiently eerie to set the mood under the night sky.

This epic of witchery, hauntings, betrayal, treason and serial killing should, however, occasion visceral horror. The dagger's edge is missing from director Donald Sage Mackay's otherwise competent staging.

The ghostly Banquo's "gory locks" are barely more than figurative, and the offstage murders occur at too great a distance, physically and emotionally, leaving their enormity to be read in the Macbeths' neatly crimsoned hands and artfully smeared faces.

The rather matter-of-fact, Druid-like witches reveal mundane human faces, while their unexpected appearance at play's end -- ceremoniously accepting the restored king into their ranks and engaging in a ritual spitting over the sack containing Macbeth's head -- leaves open the question of divine intervention or calculated manipulation.

The rhythm of the play, meanwhile, waxes and wanes according to the experience and expertise of the actors, coming most joltingly alive in muscular performances by Bo Foxworth as Macduff and Taras Los as Banquo.

Katie A. Keane valiantly attempts a strong Lady Macbeth without hard edges, whose vulnerability, underscored by Keane's delicate beauty, speaks of a woman driven by something more desperate than selfish ambition. If her disintegration into madness has too much Ophelia in it, it's still a nuanced performance, save for a couple of graphic sexual gestures. A lack of discernible chemistry between Keane and Robert Pescovitz in the title role makes these awkward.

Stage veteran Pescovitz, an accomplished regular with A Noise Within, plays the doomed Thane with staring horror and a sense of reckless desperation, earning a few unexpected laughs for sardonic undertones of gallows humor. His sword fight with Foxworth is a white-knuckler (kudos to fight choreographer Christopher Villa).

The essential that's lacking is a clearly defined arc of transformation.

This Macbeth is smaller than he should be, more insecure opportunist than heroic warrior corrupted by moral frailty. He falls, but from a middling height.



Where: Festival Amphitheatre, Grove Theater Center, 12740 Main St., Garden Grove

When: 8:15 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays

Ends: Aug. 21

Price: $26

Contact: (714) 590-1575

Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

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