M: An adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth for three actors
nytheatre.com review by Ryan Nicholoff
August 20, 2009
As you walk into the theatre for M: An adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth for three actors, the stage is set interestingly enough. As the lights dim three actors take the stage with their manufactured witches (which I loved). This production attempts to condense all the characters in the play to three players, who have varying success with their portrayals. Along with other roles, Macbeth is played by Sean Fri, Lady M is played by Jonna McElrath, and Banquo is played by Michael Shattner.
Now, I am not always a big fan of these kinds of variations on Shakespeare's texts, but I do think the biggest success of this production is that the story does not suffer in any way, although all of the character work is not of equal caliber. All three main characters are very well-developed and executed, but some of the secondary work suffers, seeming as though it was brushed over in the rehearsal process. With that said, my favorite work of the evening was the secondary character work done by Michael Shattner; as the old man, and as the sole attendee at the feast on the night of Banquo's death. I liked the trio's work as the witches and I also liked the device used when the actors were not in the action—fading into the background and effectively becoming a piece of scenery.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the technical elements. The costumes by Uta P. Bekaia are wonderful as are the props used for the witches. I also very much enjoyed the sparse set by director Robert Monaco. It is functional and perfect for a production such as this. Sound by Elizabeth Rhodes is evocative and haunting and the lights by Christopher Creevey are nice—wonderful during the appearance of Banquo's ghost at the feast.
Sean Fri is a strong Macbeth. As one of the most tortured characters in Shakespeare's plays he is twisted into madness and ruination and ultimately death. Fri 's onstage relationship with McElrath is strong and you believed Lady M's power over him. I particularly liked her moment at the end when you see her descent into guilt-ridden madness as struggles with ever growing "spot." With some shaky moments along the way the trio gives a strong performance.
All in all, I thought the production to be a success. It fits well in its venue at the Actors Playhouse, and although concise it achieves the desired result of one of my favorite Shakespeare tragedies. It is a great representation and suitable for the Shakespeare novice as well as the purist.