Presented by Ensemble Theatre Company. At the New Vic, Sat., Oct. 1. Shows through Oct. 16.
It’s not just superstition that keeps many theater companies away from performing Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The source of the indelible phrase “something wicked this way comes” presents fiendish difficulties to even the most well-prepared of casts, mixing some of Shakespeare’s best incandescent poetry with supernatural sequences that strain credulity. In Ensemble Theatre Company’s powerful new production, director Jonathan Fox employs multiple strategies in an assault on the text that’s distinguished both by the high quality of the performances and by the high-tech dazzle with which they are presented. As Macbeth, Jamison Jones offers crisp articulation and undeniable sex appeal. Once his shirt comes off early in the first half, any question about what Kathryn Meisle’s Lady Macbeth sees in him is laid to rest.
Two design decisions place this production firmly in the 21st century. Hana S. Kim has produced a brilliant set for the state-of-the-art projections that create the intricate backdrops and convincing apparitions. Dianne K. Graebner’s costumes substitute desert camouflage and modern bulletproof vests for the play’s traditional tartans and armor. In the final confrontation between Macduff (A.K. Murtadha) and Macbeth, fight director Ken Merckx renders this time shift complete, abandoning Shakespeare’s swordplay in favor of a struggle straight out of a Hollywood action movie. While these up-to-the-minute adjustments unquestionably give the production a fabulous look, what they mean remains an open question.