KPBS AIRDATE: November 5, 2004
A killer, a dreamer and a goat-lover. Take your pick; it’s a wild week of high-tension drama — on the theatrical as well as political stage.
The murderer is “Macbeth,” that megalomaniacal Thane who, with his malignant wife, kills a passel of people in order to fulfill the kingly prophesies of the cackling, cauldron-stirring Weird Sisters. The Poor Players’ bare-bones production trims the Shakespearean masterwork down to one single, intense act. The cuts work well, and though there are some uneven performances, the central characters are chilling. As Lady Macbeth, blonde beauty Beth Everhart maintains a deadly smile and then goes marvelously, obsessively mad. But it’s her Lord who really rivets the attention. Director Richard Baird is mesmerizing as a brutal, abusive warrior who loses his spouse, his mind and ultimately his life, due to hubris and extreme ambition. His performance is stunning.
If you like your theater more abstract and less linear, you’ll high-tail it over to Sledgehammer Theatre for their visually thrilling ensemble production of “A Dream Play.” In his groundbreaking 1901 drama, August Strindberg tried to capture the illusory, ever-changing quality of nighttime reveries. At the outset, the daughter of the Hindu god Indra comes down to earth see how humans are faring. What she finds is a whole lot of misery (and repetition!) — frustrations, disappointments, loveless marriages, wilting flowers. The play cynically confronts matters of morality, religion, philosophy and sexuality. Death, in Strindberg’s worldview, is deliverance. But with a snappy new translation by SDSU professor Anne-Charlotte Harvey, choreographically-precise direction by Kirsten Brandt, an ingenious design team and a crackerjack ensemble, the play brims with imagination and life.
When it comes to wild imagination, no one goes as far out on a limb to provoke, titillate and shock as the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Edward Albee. His most recent Tony Award winner for Best Play, “The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?” is a tragedy wrapped in the cloak of a dark comedy. It’s a silly-sounding, but disturbing story of a happily married, highly prized architect who falls hopelessly in love with a goat. The play really isn’t about bestiality, though. It’s about tolerance, the meaning and limits of love, what remaining taboos we have, what lines we draw that cannot be crossed. The humor is brutal, the family destruction complete. But the San Diego Repertory Theatre production ignores the gravitas and goes for the belly-laughs. This play is really serious business, but here it’s treated and played like a sitcom. There’s insufficient nuance in the performances; we get the anger but little of the pain. This should be gut-wrenching, devastating theater; it comes off as a sad, sick joke. You’ll just have to get your tragedy from Shakespeare — or the election results.
©2004 Patté Productions Inc.