Writer: William Shakespeare
Director & Adaptor: Erica Schmidt
Reviewer: Adrienne Sowers
The politics of being a preteen girl are dark, complex, and can feel like life-or-death stakes are involved. Whispers and rumors fuel hormone-charged energies and create tension and high drama. So it stands to reason that Red Bull Theater’s production of MacBeth, ably adapted and directed by Erica Schmidt, moves the Scottish Play into a contemporary teenage world. Replete with iPhones and backpacks, this production examines of Shakespeare’s most grittily famous plays through the lens of the teenage experience.
Scenic designer Catherine Cornell creates a derelict park that could be anywhere in America for the tale of the Thane of Cawdor/King of Scotland to unfold. A beat-up couch, random claw-foot tub, and abandoned tire serve multiple pur
poses throughout the piece, providing a veritable jungle gym upon which this dynamic cast hurtles themselves. Lorenzo
Pisoni’s movement coordination shines in the mile-a-minute pace of this play. Everything in preteen world feels
monumental and snap decisions are made based upon petty arguments and clandestine whispers, not at all unlike Shakespeare’s original MacBeth. But here, packed into ninety breakneck minutes and delivered by a cast of entirely young women, the play has a newfound palpability.
The cast: AnnaSophia Robb, Sophie Kelly-Hedrick, Sharlene Cruz, Isabelle Fuhrman, Ayana Workman, Ismenia Mendes, and Lily Santiago is a tight-knit machine. Each of these actors carries her part(s, many performers play multiple roles) with skill and wit. The specificity of each moment is clear, and the breakneck speed of the dialog perfectly tempered with laser-sharp specificity of understanding and intent. In particular, Ismenia Mendes’ is the best Lady MacBeth this reviewer has seen in recent memory (and that’s a lot of Lady MacBeths!). Driven by power and succumbing to madness, Mendes brings a tempered approach to the journey of this character – though it is clear from her first entrance that Lady M. is slightly unhinged, Mendes’ performance is a carefully constructed arc, giving a character that can easily fall into one-note territory a depth and richness that reintroduces the shock value this play had when it was created several centuries ago.
The conceit of this play is compelling enough to draw attention, and it’s execution lives up to the hype and then some. Erica Schmidt’s adaptation of MacBeth is a rock-solid production, and well worth a trip to the Lucille Lortel before the show closes on June 9th.
Runs Until June 9, 2019 | Photo by Carol Rosegg