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A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
The collaboration of The Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) and Italy's world-renowned marionette company, Colla Marionette Company has resulted in a visually thrilling, fast-paced Macbeth that delivers Shakespeare's text with marvelous clarity. Though the many children at the early matinee I attended were below the recommended 12-and-up age, there was no sign of fidgeting from those too young to fully comprehend this tale of overwhelming ambition, guilt inducing murder most foul ("what's done is done!") and appreciate the Bard's language.
As you take your seat, the curtain of the beautiful New Victory Theater is drawn so there's no hint of what to expect. Things start off with a big bang, a very literal command that attention must be paid. Then, the actors from the Chicago Shakespeare company emerge from behind the curtain, all wearing dark suits. They walk off the stage and to the orchestra pit section to take their seats (backs to the audience) at lecterns on which their manuscripts are illuminated by subtle and non-distracting blue lights. Then the curtain rises and WOW!
The first of those awesome three-foot-tall Colla marionettes take the stage, their movements manipulated by a team of unseen puppeteers, are stylized rather than realistic. The puppets move on a stage within the stage, framed by a scenic proscenium so that the overall look is that of a giant pop-up book. The scenes, all exquisitely lit by Franco Citterio, shift with very brief and non-distracting pauses from eerie Scottish heath, to Macbeth and his scheming lady's Castle and the battlefield where the man so desperate to be king finally loses his head. It's a gruesome tale (parental guidance, especially for parents with children sensitive to scary, violent stories) made more so by a steaming cauldron for the truly weird trio of witches. The Macbeth's triumphant banquet is aptly spoiled by Banquo's bloody ghost and the battle scenes feature an army of soldiers, and horses. There's also a fabulous flock of birds.
The mood of gloom and doom is enhanced by Fabio Vacchi's richly evocative music. While it's become commonplace to give new twists and settings to Shakespeare's works, this is one of the more unique departures from the expected. Happily, the text, despite the streamlining and miked voices, has lost none of the most memorable lines. The marionettes may be puppets whose movements are controlled by strings held by their puppet masters and whose words come from below stage, but as puppetry director Eugenio Monti Colla explains it, the marionette's gestures instead of copying those of the human being's, synthesizes it into a stylized performance of heightened reality. Thus the marionettes manage to convey the intensity of the Macbeths' ambition, the nasty lady's descend into madness, the despair of the bereaved Macduff. As that young man I overheard at play's end so aptly put it, "Awesome! "
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide