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  • Writer's pictureFrank Schierloh

REVIEW: Macbeth (Quintessence Theatre Group, Germantown PA)

The Scottish Play feels lost in this disjointed production.


The tale of Shakespeare’s doomed Scottish king, Macbeth, has been told in various mediums, by myriad artists, making it one of his most famous works. Some theatre’s find it difficult to make Shakespeare’s stories feel fresh and original, and have thus created a trend to add some kind of concept or idea behind it. Sometimes that can be successful, but in other cases ideas are not fully realized and executed. Sadly, that is the case  with Quintessence Theatre Group’s production of Macbeth. It’s a production that never fully realizes an idea, and thus makes for a rather uneventful three hours. 

 

Choices…

One thing that Quintessence does consistently well is configure the space at the Sedgewick Theatre into new and engaging layouts for their shows. This set is no different, presenting a raised three quarter thrust stage with a large staircase leading to a platform. It heightens and elevates the staging, creating interesting ways characters come and go, through trap doors in the stage. There are also some wonderful movement surprises that were very engaging and genuinely impressive. I won't go and spoil these moments, but they are the few things that were enjoyable about this production.


There was a lack of cohesive thought that ran throughout this whole production. Certain staging choices were made that didn’t feel supported or fully thought out. The Witches were robbed of any menace to them, instead they were dressed in spooky-halloween-skeleton-ghoul costumes. All of their scenes became odd performance sections filled with over the top “feminine” movements, followed by bad attempts at ballroom dance moves to out of place house music. There was more humor in this production, which is not inherently a bad thing; there are some genuinely funny lines in the script. However, this lean into the humor, sight gags, and dick jokes (which while in the script are a real low hanging fruit) robbed the show of any build up of tension. By the final act it was hard to take any of the dramatic fights seriously because they lacked any kind of investment into the characters or the history. 


A scene from Quintessence Theatre's 2024 production of Macbeth.
Jamison Foreman, Cornelius Franklin, and Lee Thomas Cortopassi as the Witches in Quintessence Theatre Group's 2024 production of Macbeth. Photo by Linda Johnson.

More Choices...

The production decided on an all-male cast, to explore the ideas of gender and lean into the themes of masculinity within the show. However, there didn’t seem to be much thought put into it outside of “masculinity = gory violence.” While society often enforces a gender binary, many would argue that gender expression is in and of itself: performance. This concept could be fascinating to explore in the context of a very male-driven Shakespeare piece like Macbeth, but in actuality the performances here lack nuance and any sense of authenticity, making the performance of gender feel more like a hollow mockery than a lived in truth. The feminine characters of this piece don’t get to explore any of their femininity within the show, because it is all through the lens and context of masculinity. The witches then become parodies of femininity, and the Ladies Macbeth and MacDuff don’t feel fully explored. 


Performances across the board feel very disjointed. While the majority of the performers have been able to make the text sound good, it often feels like they are not 100% sure what they are saying. Many of the performances go for large brush strokes, or large shows of emotion that feel out of place or not properly built up to. Both Macbeth (Daniel Miller) and Lady Macbeth (Scott Parkinson)play their characters with a lack of cunning and cutthroat attitudes that are indicative of the titular couple. Miller has a decent grasp of the text, and is amiable in his scene work, but generally falters within the soliloquies. Parkinson has moments where his Lady M is as fiercely vindictive as she is written, but oftentimes feels more keen to meander, especially towards the end of the play. There also seems to be a lack of chemistry between the two that makes any of the actions they do and the reasons they do it believable. It never feels like they make sense as a married couple. 


A scene from Quintessence Theatre's 2024 production of Macbeth.
The cast of Quintessence Theatre Group's 2024 production of Macbeth. Photo by Linda Johnson.


This production falters in many spaces, but has two moments at the end of the show that are truly baffling and lack any form of clarity. The first involving the witches having an ability to turn back time and rewrite events.  The second being an odd choice for a final tableau, that feels unnecessarily graphic, while also being weirdly camp. Neither choice felt cohesive with how the show had been set up until that point. It’s a running theme within this production and what is most frustrating about it. It seems like director Alex Burns struggled to effectively figure out what he wanted to say with this production, or had too many ideas of what to try to say with it. Thus the result being a Macbeth that is confusing, uneven, and not fully realized in any of the dozen or so ideas it tries to bring to the stage. 

A cartoon with a link to tickets and more info.

Macbeth is on stage at

Quintessence Theatre Group

(7137 Germantown Ave)

from now until April 21st, 2024.



For more information visit quintessencetheatre.org





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