On March 29, 30 and 31, 2019, Chicago Repertory Ballet reprised Artistic Director and choreographer Wade Schaaf’s vision of Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy, MACBETH at the Athaeneum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, Chicago.
In 18 scenes over 3 acts, a cleverly re-spun tale was beautifully danced amid startlingly vivid projections by John Pobojewski, fantasy inducing lighting by Sarah Lackner, intensely compelling music by Wojciech Kilar coupled with scary and edgy sound design by Wade Schaaf, the whole perfectly coordinated with exciting and highly interpretive non-medieval costumes by Nathan Rohrer dressing the modern ballet.
It’s a bloody, storm-tossed, vengeful saga replete with evil, karmic-driven magic, and lots of murder. It’s also presented as a personifying fable of psychological torment; the lust for eminence is balanced by overweening guilt. The physical acts of horror cause the psyches of the main characters to teeter on the fulcrum point of madness. The cunning pantomime and lyrical yet dynamic and forceful choreography told a linear/fanciful story set in Anytime and Anyplace where ultimate power ultimately corrupts.
In this version, the ballet opens with a multitude of witches- “weird sisters”-who cast spells and create an eerie atmosphere portentous of doom and despair. Macbeth receives a prophecy that he will become Thane of Glamis and Cawdor and “king hereafter.” He advises Lady Macbeth of the prognostication; his dominance-mad wife urges him to seize the opportunity and take the throne.
One night, Macbeth, though fearful and tormented, and after messing up the plot the first time, with the help of his Lady murders the reigning King Duncan in his sleep. Lady Macbeth then frames Macbeth’s best friend Banquo for the crime.
Banquo, however, suspects Macbeth who realizes he must murder Banquo and sends assassins to carry out the deed. Haunted by Banquo’s ghost, Macbeth goes to importune the witches in a desolate place. They council him with three prophesies which make him believe that he cannot be harmed.
In his awful desire for control, Macbeth next sends killers to assassinate MacDuff, the thane of Fife. MacDuff is not home so the assassins take out the entire MacDuff clan instead. Lady Macbeth is overwhelmingly beset by her conscience; we see her sleepwalk, reenacting her horrors each night, wringing her hands repeatedly to remove the stain of murder. She takes her own life, and that of her unborn child, while her spellbound husband is now completely apathetic.
MacDuff and Donalbain, Duncan’s son, enter with soldiers disguised as trees from Birnam woods. Donalbain fights Macbeth and is slain but ultimate hero MacDuff confronts Macbeth in a final standoff and slays the corrupt Macbeth. Malcolm is now crowned King of Scotland in a grim scene of triumph and revenge.
The audience was held in the grip of this production throughout; scene after scene presented a spectacle of dancer-actors thoroughly engaged in a tangle of tortuous human search for omnipotence, the oldest battle of all. The intermingling of confusion, sadness, anxiety and despair was wrought in the actions of collapse, surrender, push me/pull you and mirrored on the faces of the fine performers. In the midst of all the angst, wonderfully wrought duets, filled with athleticism and playfulness and group scenes of complex gracefulness brought respite to the senses.
Kudos to Django Allegretti for giving us an explosive multi-dimensional Macbeth, a man thrust into a role for which he was unprepared; to Miriam-Rose LeDuc, a glorious, wildly capable yet vanquished Valkyrie whose self-loathing turned her into Medea; to Jaqueline Stewart, a stunningly fierce Hecate whom one could believe held the world in her hand; to Carley Klebba and Luis Vazquez, the coolest, hissingest, sexiest weird sisters; to Michelle Meltzer, Sarah Marley, Christine Janak and Eliza Weekley, witches all, who well-nigh drove us all into madness in the agility with which they drove the tale; to Mickey Erickson, Mauricia Fernandez, John Cartright, Nathan Rommel and Felicity Nicholson, for weaving a web of footwork and so much more! (Note: many of the performers played more than 1 role.)
For information about Chicago Repertory Ballet, go to www.chicagorepertotyballet.com