In Erica Schmidt’s adaptation, Mac Beth, a group of girls meet in an abandoned field to perform Shakespeare’s play. Very little of the text has been changed, but the staging is appropriately makeshift: the girls munch on Cheetos. Messages are sent via pink-encased iPhones. And Macbeth bears a felt crown complete with a candied ring pop. The cast is dressed in school uniforms—ties, grey jackets, black skirts, capes—and the murders are comically overdone, until they are not. In the process, Schmidt draws on a visual history of mischievous, teenage violence that spans from at least the Salem Witch Trials to the Slender Man stabbing.
Her experiment is largely successful, and she earns her central conceit, which is intuitive rather than gimmicky. Mac Beth, after all, is obsessed with how action rather than biology can denote gender. Thus, lines such as Malcolm’s “Dispute it like a man” or Lady Macbeth’s (Ismenia Mendes) “unsex me here” acquire additional force in this production. The violence is both playful and serious, and in the banquet scene, where the ghost of Banquo (Ayana Workman) interrupts Macbeth as he entertains guests, a bottle of red wine is put to excellent (and thrilling) effect.
Fuhrman’s Macbeth, voiced with a light rasp, is well-rendered. She is not precious with the language, she never signals key moments with an uptick in volume or resonance, and this even-handed approach gives her delivery a welcome freshness. It is not easy to unburden oneself of the ghosts of performances past. Granted, at times, some members of the cast rely too heavily on their hands to communicate meaning, and there is a faint, sing-song quality to a bit of the delivery, which can sound memorized rather than expressed. Still, by and large, this Mac Beth is a rewarding experience, a fresh interrogation of Shakespeare’s bloodiest play.
Mac Beth runs through June 9th at the Lucille Lortel Theater. 121 Christopher Street New York, NY. 1 hour 30 minutes. No intermission.