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There Will Be Blood

Wednesday, March 19, 2008 Leave a Comment

According to my count, Shakespeare uses the word "blood" some 41 times in Macbeth. I sat down last night, by candlelight, with a rustic copy of the First Folio and circled, with quill, every "blood"and "bloody" that I could find. Actually, that's not true: I found an electronic version of the play online, did a simple "control F" on my keyboard and did a quick count. Much easier.

I've seen quite a few versions of Macbeth on stage and screen but I don't think I've ever seen a version that embraced the blood and magic as much as the version I saw recently. The play was co-directed by Aaron Posner, co-founder of the Arden Theatre in Philly and Teller, the silent half of the famous Philadelphia-native magic duo, Penn & Teller. Billed as "a horror show", this production certainly lives up to its word in regards to violence and spectacle. Before the show even begins, the woman giving the curtain speech is interupted by a sword-carrying goon who stabs her in the back with a viscous-looking sword (handmade for this production I learned from a cast member afterwards). We see the sword go through her body, she screams, there is a blackout and the fun begins.

This production has it all: great fight sequences, a floating dagger, actors vanishing before your eyes, optical illusions, haunting percussions, bloody swords, bloody hands, bloody daggers, blood squirting from bodies - even some very realistic (and bloody) baboon innards. For any production of Macbeth to be successful, it is imperative that the theatricality of illusion and horror be embraced. This production finds the right moments for that important ingredient - particularly in the embodiment of the Weird Sisters who are chilling.

Most importantly, this Macbeth is a lot of fun. It doesn't take itself too seriously and it was refreshing to see a Macbeth that doesn't only focus on the tragedy and misery of the play but rather the magic, wonder and theatricality.

Though some of the actors had trouble finding an emotional connection within the text at times, solid performances by Karen Peakes as Lady Macduff, Ian Merrill Peakes as Macbeth and Paul Morella as Banquo move the play along with a steady and thrilling pace. Special kudos goes out to Eric Hissom for his fantastic portrayal of a Weird Sister, the Porter and the Doctor. Hissom is one of those actors that constantly lives in the present onstage. It's a rare and exciting thing to be able to watch his journey (in this case, journies). I also must mention the great fight choreography by Dale Anthony Girard. This was some of the best stage fighting I have ever seen and the physical skill of Ian Merrill Peakes certainly didn't hurt!

Macbeth is playing at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC until April 13th. If you happen to be in DC, check it out though tickets are nearly impossible to get unless you know someone on the "inside".

Did I mention that this is my first posting on the Flux Blog? Thanks for reading, it was fun!