MACBETH by William Shakespeare, directed by Matthew Kutas, with Lindsay G. Merrithew, Ruth Madoc-Jones, Paul Miller, Michael Fletcher, Elizabeth Brown, Derek Boyes and Andrew Moodie. Presented by Hurlyburly Theatre at Canadian Stage (26 Berkeley). Runs to September 29, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday, Saturday-Sunday 2 pm. $28-$32, stu/srs discount. 416-368-3110. Rating: NN
macbeth may be shakespeare's shortest play, but this doesn't mean that a company should race through it, throwing its poetry and emotion to the winds. Hurlyburly Theatre's opening production of this tale of ambition, witchcraft and madness has more youthful exuberance than mastery of the material. As the action accelerates, the text is increasingly lost, until raised voices become aural blurs.
Lindsay G. Merrithew's corruptible Macbeth postures more than he feels, staying on the outside of the role. Maintaining an even keel whether he's fearful, angry or determined, his neutral delivery and characterization lack highs and lows. Ruth Madoc-Jones gives Lady Macbeth passion and a touch of madness even in her first scene, and she exits with a moving sleepwalking scene.
But it's the secondary figures who stand out here -- the dignity and simplicity of Derek Boyes's Banquo, Elizabeth Brown's imperious Hecate (in an interpolated scene probably not written by the Bard) and fully human Lady Macduff, and Michael Krek's sensible Ross. There's also strength in the staging's intimacy, with the trio of witches hovering over many scenes, and James Binkley's fights come off excitingly.
Paul Mathiesen's lighting is as active a participant as any actor onstage -- there are some striking effects with light coming through slits in Carolyn M. Smith's appropriately blood-red set -- but after a while it becomes as hyperkinetic as most of Matthew Kutas's often fussy, sometimes effective direction.