The Cleveland Shakespeare Festival
By William Shakespeare
Adapted by Orson Welles
Directed by Celeste Cosentino and Tyson Rand
Through June 8th, 2014
2843 Washington Blvd.
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118.
While not a Shakespearean scholar by any means, it has been my fortune to witness quite a few performances of his work in the past few years. Some have been brilliant, some have been dismally bad and some stuck in the middle between greatness and mediocrity. I am saddened to report that the current production of “Voodoo Macbeth” by Ensemble Theatre falls into that last category.
“Voodoo Macbeth” was first envisioned by Orson Wells and financed by The National Theatre Project in 1936 in an effort to keep the fine arts alive in America during the great depression. In Well’s version, the Middle English dialog is kept intact but the location has been changed from Scotland to a Haitian type island, the costumes are island appropriate and the witches have been replaced with voodoo priestesses. When first premiered, it was a box office sensation that sold out for weeks.
In this reimagining of the darkest of Shakespearian tragedies, Macbeth is a general in the king’s army who has been told by three voodoo priestesses that he will be king after receiving honors. This self -fulfilling prophesies comes true when (encouraged by his wife) he murders the king. Over the course of his rule Macbeth becomes increasingly paranoid as he eliminates all competition to the throne while his wife goes mad. The play ends with the two dying with the rightful ruler and order restored.
Where this production runs into trouble is what happens to all less than perfect Shakespearean performances. Shakespeare wrote all of his plays with an ear for poetry. A true Shakespearean company must be able to juggle three things at once; the iambic pentameter rhythm of speech combined with making the performance real and relevant to the audience as well as to the other actors while not muffing their lines. As the Bard would put it, “Aye, there’s the rub!”
In the Ensemble Theatre production while there are glimpses of brilliance, there are also instances of missed words, lines and cues. Thus the error of a few brings the hard work of the others crashing down.
While the performance lacked certain elements, the stage was interesting to say the least. Three huge screens are offset and show various video projected scenes ranging from what appears to be an island slum, a palace interior, a jungle, graffiti, a dilapidated church and voodoo type images. At one point there is a video of waves crashing on a rocky shore that after awhile became more interesting to watch than the actors playing in front of it even though the video kept repeating itself.
Beefs and Flubs: Missed cues, less than perfect acting and a seemingly disregard for the poetry that is Shakespeare takes away from some truly fine performances which makes this a flawed theater experience. In short, a bit more was bitten off than could be chewed.
Prude Alert: It is Shakespeare with murder, madness and in this case voodoo. While a classic you may want to check your sensitivity level to such subject matter.
Shooting From The Lip (In My Opinion): The production of “Voodoo Macbeth” by Ensemble Theatre is neither great nor terrible. It lies somewhere in the middle. Good acting by some tarnished by not so good acting by others makes for an uneven 90 minutes.
The production runs Thurs.- Sat. at 8:00 p.m.; Sunday at 2:00 p.m. through June 8th.
Co-directed by CSF Artistic Director Tyson Douglas Rand and Ensemble Theatre Artistic Director Celeste Cosentino.
Jimmie Woody as Macbeth
Carly Germany* as Lady Macbeth
Greg White as Banquo
Joseph Primes as Hecate
Leonard Goff as Duncan/Priest
Kyle Carthens as MacDuff
Chennelle Harris as Lady MacDuff
Malik Aziz as MacDuff's son/Messanger
Chinetha Hall, Emily Terry, & Tina Thompkins as the Witches
Robert Hunter as Macolm
Calvin Willis Jr. and Tim Young as the Murderers.
Marc Moore Jr as Lennox
Aseenah Rasulalah as Nun/Nurse/Seyton
Steven Wood as the Porter
Jarrell Brown as Ross/Young Siward
Set Design & Projection Design by Ian Hinz
Lighting Design by Andrew Eckert
Costume Design by Angelina Herin
Production Stage Manager: Julia Perez
Tickets to VOODOO MACBETH
$12(Students with Valid ID)
Group rate of $15(Groups of 10 or more)
All Preview Tickets are $15.
TO PURCHASE TICKETS:
Ensemble Theatre is located at 2843 Washington Blvd. in Cleveland Heights, OH 44118. For directions to the Ensemble Theatre click HERE.