Because of the interdependent relationship of the forces in Shakespeare's scripts, adaptations of his work are only occasionally successful, but on those occasions when an adaptation works, it lays bare the universal message of the play. Such is the clarity of vision in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival's current production of Macbeth.

Set in a global village modeled along African tribal lines, Director Sean Ryan Kelley's Macbeth literally marches to the beat of drums, performed by brothers Maputo and Mawuenyega Mensah, turning this tale of out-of-control ambition into an archetypal dance-ritual that crystallizes the artistic structure of the play while revealing the nature of power and corruption.

Given events of the past few generations in which we have seen Presidents assassinated, elections stolen, and our own citizens sacrificed to the global ambitions of our power elite, the story of Macbeth should ring a bell for almost anyone willing to step back and ask: Who benefits? In this case, of course, it is that woeful Scots nobleman who had it all, then went over to the dark side.

Photo of Candace Taylor as Lady Macbeth; Kyle Haden as Macbeth
Candace Taylor as Lady
Macbeth; Kyle Haden as
Photo Credit: Lou Costy
As the tragic Macbeth, Kyle Haden's performance is mixed, as much a function of casting as direction and performance. At first, Haden's youth adds vigor to the sexual tension between himself and Candace Taylor's Lady Macbeth; but in his youthful eagerness he is easily swayed by the "unsexed" gravity of purpose exuded by his resolute mate. Thus, in Macbeth's "'twere well it were done quickly" speech, Haden's lack of calculation runs counter to the savvy we would expect from a seasoned warrior. The result is that Haden's Macbeth commits regicide lacking the internal conflict that can be later magnified and fractured into the self doubt, ruthlessness, and finally fatalism that marks this mature tragic hero.

On the other hand, Taylor's performance exhibits an arc that makes sense out of Lady Macbeth's free fall from grace. Her blind ambition is never in doubt, but she has not considered the consequences. When her husband's post-traumatic stress triggers haunting visions, paranoia, and ultimately, a conscienceless murder spree, Taylor shows us the growing fissures that lead to Lady Macbeth's final desperate act.

The supporting work includes: David MacInnis' stately Macduff and Tony Molina's substantive Banquo, which support the redemption of the last scene; Alphonse Keasley's sympathetic yet regal Duncan; and a trio of witch doctors that underscore the pivotal role the weird sisters play in luring Macbeth to his demise.

Director Kelley's choice of motif, use of masks, and background drumming, creates moments of unsurpassed beauty, particularly in the passing of Banquo and Lady Macbeth. In addition, these devices offer a perfect parallel to the wild kilted highlanders, clannish tartans, and otherworldly bagpipes of the original setting, thus creating a global mirror through which Macbeth becomes a timely parable. Finally, I cannot say enough for Kelley's conscious effort to block his actors so that they're always projecting into the sizeable outdoor amphitheatre.

The Colorado Shakespeare Festival's production of Macbeth runs in repertory with Richard III, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and a new comedy, Shakespeare in Briefs through August 17th. 303-492-0554.

Bob Bows


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