Kitchen Dog’s MACBETH: Mind Full of Scorpions

“We have brought down the regime”, chanted the Cairo Tahrir crowd , while many were seen crying, cheering and embracing one another. Mohamed El Baradei, an Egyptian opposition leader, hailed the moment as being the “greatest day of my life… The country has been liberated after decades of repression.” (AP Press)

As Egypt sheds a delusional, cruel tyrant, played out for an audience of millions on the world stage via international broadcast, in Dallas another cruel tyrant schemes and murders his way to the Scottish throne and is brought down by the will and might of the people. Scheduled to open last weekend until February’s ice storm altered plans, Kitchen Dog Theater’s haunted, savage production of Macbeth resonates with thematic timeliness: power’s abuse and rightful accession. It sends chills up the spine to attend the play’s opening as parallel events unfold in the Middle East. KDT Co-Artistic directors Tina Parker and Christopher Carlos couldn’t have planned it better….

Macbeth the general is no ordinary malevolent villain. He doesn’t intrinsically find killing a joyous thing, say in the way Genghis Khan or Donald Rumsfeld might. Shakespeare’s play turns on the transformation Macbeth undergoes, from a highly effective, trusted warrior to a bloodless opportunist, driven by blind ambition to use any means at hand to establish and maintain dictatorial kingship. Encouraged to ‘dream big’ by a scummy threesome of ghostly witches, he returns home to find his grasping wife the catalyst to launch his ill-fated path of murder and deception. Once on blood-path, he finds there is neither turning back nor trusting anyone ever again. Christopher Carlos presents a cool-headed, but easily flattered and swayed Macbeth. He plays the sort of military man who is valued for his skill in hand to hand combat, one who can inspire others, but not for his wisdom as a clever battle strategist. When the seeds of murderous treason are planted in his mind, he gets carelessly swept up with the concept of becoming king. Carlos reveals a Macbeth caught in a hideous web from which there is no escape. Recognizing this, he plunges on with grim fatalistic determination.  With his “mind full of scorpions” he hallucinates and can get no rest from the horrific consequences of his deeds. “Macbeth has murdered sleep, sleep no more”, he moans with deep regret. He delivers the famous “is this a dagger I see before me” speech as though the results of his actions terrify and overwhelm him like a maniacal nightmare, in horrified realization that there is no way back from impending insanity and escalating destruction.

Christina Vela, Christopher Carlos

In one hundred taut-strung minutes minus intermission, Kitchen Dog Theater

weaves together a credible Macbeth, managing to convey modern thematic parallels with actors costumed in paramilitary garb, berets and jack boots while exploring the primeval, ritualistic sense of the tale. A versatile ensemble of eight shifts gears, tempo and multiple roles with fluidity and focus. Christina Vela’s Lady Macbeth compliments Christopher Carlos’ “thane” as the penultimate manipulative, grasping wife driven mad to suicide by guilt and self-recrimination. Rhonda Boutte creates equally memorable, gritty portrayals as Macbeth’s sidekick Banquo and as Lady Macduff. Adrian Churchill uses his well-honed physical and vocal adeptness to define unique characters in his disparate roles of King Duncan, the Doctor and the drunken Porter. Max Hartman brings rational, measured sobriety to the character of Malcolm, legitimate successor to the throne, in strong contrast to Macbeth’s irrational opportunism and savagery. Cameron Cobb paints a realistically grieving Macduff who draws deep from personal reserves to effect justifiable retribution, stern yet heart-wrenching. Jenny Ledel and Drew Wall flesh out their supporting roles with imagination and vitality. All except Christopher Carlos take turns at playing mask shrouded “weird sisters”, the infamous witches, adding an unsettling shape-shifter quality to the performance.

With set, light and sound design, Donna Marquet, Aaron Johansen and John M. Flores create a convincing, spooky world out of joint, where heinous, ancient acts foretell modern repression and somehow today’s regime change mirrors historical precedent.

Kitchen Dog Theater’s Macbeth is directed by Matthew Gray, with costumes by Samantha J. Miller and sword fight choreography by Bill Lengfelder.

Through March 5, 2011   214-953-1055

Al Jazeera:  Mubarak Steps Down —

Photo by Matt Mrozek

One thought on “Kitchen Dog’s MACBETH: Mind Full of Scorpions

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