Any school kid who’s ever studied Macbeth has delved into the tragedy of the main character. The analysis focuses on the dangers of ambition, or in Macbeth’s case hyper-ambition. A corollary of that is a study of the consequences of Macbeth completely immersing himself in what turns out to be a fatal flaw. What demons will he need to face in order to keep going? And how will those demons manifest themselves over time?
In the many iterations of Macbeth, there have been two main interpretations of Macbeth’s character. A director can choose to look at Macbeth as a completely unsympathetic character, devoid of morality and undeserving of sympathy. But the more interesting take is to explore Macbeth as a tragic figure, a lesser man who cannot handle the gravity of the brutal actions he must perform to ascend to the throne. It makes for a far more interesting and compelling study of the human psyche.
This is the route that the Wombat Theatre Company chooses to travel in its presentation of Macbeth, which runs at The Secret Theater at 44-02 23rd Street through May 10.
We come to know Macbeth (David Lawton) in the first act as an every-day man. One who is hesitant about his ambition and careful with his actions. In the 90-minute production, Lawton does an admirable job of conveying Macbeth’s descent into absolute evil and then to pure insanity. And yet Lawton’s portrayal of Macbeth still makes his character a sympathetic one, tortured by the escalating brutal violence at his hands. In this production, demons physically manifest themselves on the stage as witches, with Macbeth unable to control or conquer them as reality and dreams merge. But rather than wanting to encourage the demons, a viewer is more likely to empathize with Macbeth, perhaps because we see certain characteristics of Macbeth in ourselves.
Kristen Tomanocy is equally effective as Lady Macbeth, who is powerful and independent as Macbeth’s driving force before going mad. Lady Macbeth is treated as an extension of Macbeth’s madness. Macbeth’s “murdered sleep” is immediately transmitted to Lady Macbeth, who figuratively and powerfully sleepwalks in the final act.
Visually, Artistic Director Steve Hart keeps the pace a brisk one both in time and also in action. There’s never a shortage of action. It remains visually complex and well-choreographed throughout. Certainly, the production invites a visceral reaction, which is likely how Shakespeare originally intended it.