Thursday, February 09, 2006

Nothing if not critical.

I'm a little worried that all of this criticism is making me jaded. Preventing me from joining an audience in the spirit of wide-eyed wonderment. Causing me to scoff at things I've seen before. Making me a critic at the expense of being a spectactor. I hate to believe such things about myself, but after seeing the current "Short Shakespeare" at Navy Pier, Macbeth, I have to say. Yeah, a little.
This is Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, after all, an entity that demands high expectations- even in a 75 minute matinee show aimed at the kiddies. And so, when they do a ritualistic/tribal Macbeth with symbolic, billowy fabric and transforming witches, of course I'm going to say "old hat." Maybe it was because it curtained at eleven am (!), maybe it was because I detested the costumes, but nothing surprised or delighted me. What am I coming to?

But seriously, the costumes. It looked like the whole cast had shopped at the Alley, or maybe even Hot Topic (except for Lady Macbeth, a dead ringer for Tilda Swinton in the Narnia Movie). Fake tattoo shirts. Lots of black leather. It was like this desperately uncool attempt to make Shakespeare cool. "Look kids- the bard is SO HARDCORE. Check out this ink!" That really was my biggest problem. The slight sense that I was being talked down to, combined with the way they were scared to let Shakespeare do his own work on the little ones.*

I mean, this is Macbeth! If you can't get into an edited version of Macbeth, you might be dead. And I think that's what saved the production. It was decently acted (even though Macbeth himself was too young and had a bit of Shatner going on) and it was this really good play. My mom, who'd never seen Macbeth live before, was entranced. If the teen target audience doesn't revolt at the cool-mongering, this play will get it done.

Still, it made me feel pretty glum about my own cynical, black critic's heart. Luckily, that night I went to see "Lulu" at TBC. Show me something beautiful, show me something new, show me something well done, and I melt into a drooling fangirl. If I hadn't seen 75 plays last year, would I really be able to appreciate the immense difficulty and perfection of what Silent Theatre company did? I think not! It was a lurid, filthy, stylish, hilarious silent film come to life, and for pete's sake, go see it.


*Oh, also, the way they upped the supernatural involvement until the whole question of Mac's culpability resolved into "witches did it."


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