AISLE SAY Twin Cities


by William Shakespeare
Directed by Joe Dowling
Guthrie Theater
818 South Second Street, Minneapolis, MN/ 612-225-6000

Reviewed by Vlad Dima

The Guthrie production of Macbeth is a marvelous, synesthetic experience, which proves once again why the Guthrie is the best venue for Shakespeare in the Twin Cities. Everything about this particular staging is professional, on point, and in places, spectacular. Director Joe Dowling’s choice to skip the intermission and run through the entire play in two hours turns out to be an excellent decision, because it raises the intensity of the tragedy considerably, and that is not an easy task.

The fast pace is established by a wonderfully choreographed fighting sequence in the beginning of the play. John Stead, the fight director, jolts the audience’s attention with his powerful recreation of war. The scene is rendered complete by Frances Aronson’s lighting design, and Scott W. Edwards’ sound design. The lights and the sound also complement the eerie set, designed by Monica Frawley. All of these elements contribute to the success of the play to such extent that the exterior (set, sounds, lights) begin to mirror Macbeth’s inner struggle. There are dry-eyes, shadows, and echoes; the visual and the aural mix together to create the synesthetic experience I referred to earlier, as we almost begin to smell Macbeth’s desperation. One last point about the set: in the middle of the stage, a round carpet is laid out, and the carpet itself bears another circle within. This is where most of the scenes between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth take place. It is a brilliant little detail that emphasizes the separation of the two characters from the rest of the world. They are trapped in their own version of the world.

The acting is quite impeccable. The supporting cast is compelling, especially Kris L. Nelson’s Porter who provides the audience with some much needed comic relief amid the very tense atmosphere. Nevertheless, it is the main two roles that stand out quite impressively. Erik Heger’s Macbeth is strong and manly at the start of the play, and then becomes conflicted and frayed as he descends into madness. However, even when he is weak or weakened, he commands the stage throughout. His counterpart, played by Michelle O’Neill is equally good, and the two have solid chemistry. In their first scene together, as they embrace, it feels real and human. They emanate raw sexual energy, and there is a physical component to their acting that makes them unique among the other actors. Maybe it is the fact that they are actually in perfect physical shape, which makes them even more imposing on stage.

I particularly liked Heger’s delivery of the well-known and crucial lines, “it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying…nothing.” He stretched the pause before saying “nothing,” which captures the essence of Macbeth—there is a thin line (or a brief pause) between sanity and madness, between greatness and nothingness. Furthermore, this entire Guthrie production appears to have taken to heart this declaration. Guthrie’s Macbeth is quite literally full of sound and fury, and that is the ideal way to stage this great tragedy.

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