Unseam'd Shakespeare in its element with 'Macbeth 3'

| Tuesday, June 9, 2009

With 16 years of experience to draw on, The Unseam'd Shakespeare Company knows how to deconstruct a classic and rebuild it to the company's singular vision.

For its single production of the 2009 season, the company chose "Macbeth 3," an already alternative view of Shakespeare's well-known tragedy.

It's an atmospheric, highly theatrical production filled with smoke, mist, shafts of light and -- for a play that begins at the end, then returns to the beginning -- surprisingly intriguing and involving.

Wolpe, the founder and artistic director of the Los Angeles Women's Shakespeare Company, adapted the original, extracting its essence and shaping it for performance by three performers in cross-gender roles.

Macbeth is played by Lisa Ann Goldsmith; Rich Venezia plays Lady Macbeth, Satan, the messenger and a witch; and Jennifer Tober appears in pivotal roles as a witch, Macduff, Banquo, Porter and Duncan.

Even with the addition of Satan, that's far fewer than the 29 named characters, plus ancillary soldiers and attendants, called for in the original.

Unseam'd Shakespeare Company went one step further, adapting -- with Wolpe's permission -- the text to its own taste and aesthetic requirements.

It's the consummate demonstration of the company's mission, which is taken from a line in the play.

Unseam'd Shakespeare Company does to "Macbeth 3" what Duncan did to the murderous, ambitious Macbeth: They unseam'd it from the knave to th' chops.

With the original's 2,477 lines pared down to fit an intermission-free, 80-minute performance and only Goldsmith maintaining a single character throughout, it's probably not a "Macbeth" for beginners.

But the play is so frequently read and performed that most will be able to withstand the shifts in character and scene. Wolpe and Unseam'd also retain most of the iconic scenes, moments and lines from the original, so you don't feel you're missing anything.

To emphasize the play's universal and eternal themes, director and fight coordinator Michael Hood chooses a timeless setting not tied to any geographical or ethnic location. According to his director's notes, the setting is Hell.

Language is always the biggest hurdle in performing Shakespeare. With only a few exceptions, the trio of actors deliver the lines with understanding and clarity.

To their credit, Goldsmith and Tober display impressive ability with broadswords.

As befits this play of multiple murders in pursuit of ambition, scenic designer Gordon R. Phetteplace creates a world that's highly dramatic, mysterious and more than a little creepy.

Sound designer Mark Whitehead ups the ante with a tapestry of musical cues and whispered words that create and propel pre-show expectation and heighten the action throughout.

Additional Information:

'Macbeth 3'

Produced by: Unseam'd Shakespeare Company

When: Through June 20 with performances at 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays and June 20

Admission: $18-$25

Where: Open Stage Theatre, 2835 Smallman St., Strip District

Details: 412-394-3353 or www.proartstickets.org

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