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Something Wicked This Way Comes: 'Macbeth' At The Edgemar Center

Ryan Brophy |
October 14, 2014 | 2:39 p.m. PDT


Macbeth (Thomas Piper) and Lady Macbeth (Lucia Yamuy) get down and dirty -- in bloodshed. Photo by Ed Krieger.
Macbeth (Thomas Piper) and Lady Macbeth (Lucia Yamuy) get down and dirty -- in bloodshed. Photo by Ed Krieger.

Maybe it's the spooky, pungent water-based fog that permeated the air inside the Playhouse of the Edgemar Center of the Arts that contributes most to the eerie, dark atmosphere that is so relevant to its production of "Macbeth." Maybe it's the rectangular pieces of wood that adorn the hallway leading into the audience, bearing cryptic tidings of "Here may you see the TYRANT, TRAITOR" etc. Maybe it's the way that the projector in the tech booth creates waves of nightmarish light above your head.

Or maybe it's a combination of all of these.

The staging, if nothing else, uses its metaphysics to the fullest degree in telling the all-too-famous Shakespearean tale of a botched regicide and its perpetrator's subsequent descent into madness, greed, and animalistic bloodlust.

Directed by Peter Richards, every bodily sense is played upon: The audience smells the swampy stench of war, sees projections that ominously represent the walls of a castle inside of which malicious deeds are about to be performed, feels the cold brisk air bringing tidings of doom, hears a low buzzing that keeps our subconscious state of suspense peaked throughout, and tastes the dryness in their mouths as they stare at the horror unfolding before us. The production value is tremendous, and allows the show to live up to its promotion as "immersive."

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The show's six-actor cast slips into the demands of the play like a glove. Thomas Piper, as Macbeth, allows himself to simmer into his status as the only actor portraying only one character, and this aspect of isolation brilliantly bleeds into his performance. Through the changing dynamic of character switches throughout the course of the two-hour show, the audience can fully hone in on the demonic transformation of the title character, reflected through changes in Piper's stature from upright and youthful to hunched with evil and, of course, his pattern of speech, smoothly running from cool and wondrous in the beginning to sardonic, harsh, and dripping with hate and paranoia in the end.

The other five, however, prove their versatility and their ability to rise to an acting challenge as extensiveperhaps even more sothan portraying Macbeth. Each character that each actor plays is tight, specific, bold, distinguishable, and truthful. We forget, for example, that Lucia Yamuy, as the pitifully morose, death-sentenced Lady Macduff, is the same actress that effortlessly and brilliantly twists the moral compass as Lady Macbeth. Mark Rimer, in particular, switches back and forth on a dime. He splits sides in a rare moment of comic relief as the lush Porter, and then breaks hearts as Banquo, the first character to succumb to Macbeth's wicked plight. This adaptability and chameleon-like quality of performance is what drives the concept of the production, and all involved prove to be extremely adept.

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It is almost enough to overshadow the overtones of classical melodrama that adorn the production. The play is performed with the gross articulation, bloated expressions, and robust staging typical of a show at the Globe itself. It seems to forget that its locale is a 75-seat black box proscenium in the middle of a culture center in Santa Monica. The howls, soliloquies, enormous physicality, and enigmatic quality, as a result, drown the audience at times. It is essentially an extremely well-crafted Shakespeare venture put inside the wrong theater. Were it performed somewhere such as the Mark Taper Forum, press would be spreading like wildfire over the piece.

But they stick to what they have and truly use the maximum amount of space that they're given. Nobody can slam the cast and crew on their thoroughness, adherence to the story, and attention to the fluidity of Shakespearean language and its accessible meaning. It takes a truly talented ensemble to take a behemoth of a show like "Macbeth," and, using six people, address the questions that audiences have pondered for centuries. The fact that we still wonder what will happen next, even at the bloody end of the play (due to a brilliant ending choice by director Peter Richards), shows the merit that this small gem of a production is truly worthy of.

"Macbeth" is playing through November 2 at the Edgemar Center for the Arts (2437 Main Street, Santa Monica). Tickets are $20. For more information, call (310) 392-7372 or visit www.EdgemarCenter.org

Reach Contributor Ryan Brophy here.

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