Theatre Review: ‘Mac | Beth’ at Synchronicity Theatre

Photos by Jerry Siegel

Synchronicity Theatre is presenting Erica Schmidt’s 90-minute adaptation called “Mac | Beth,” based on Shakespeare’s bloody tragedy, directed by Jennifer Alice Acker, running through Oct. 27.

Synchronicity, you will recall, is dedicated to uplifting the voices of women and girls, and “Mac | Beth” is no exception: It features a cast of seven young women, most of whom play multiple roles. We come upon seven high school girls, dressed in the required “uniforms” of a Catholic girls’ school, chatting casually before the play even starts. They lounge around Kristina Adler’s lovely set, laughing, chatting on cell phones, greeting one another—at first.

They are in essence a “Macbeth club,” determined to explore more fully the legendary tragedy. You may wonder why: Nothing tweaks the interest and desire of healthy adolescents more than forbidding them something. One feels the girls have been forbidden to explore Shakespeare’s dark and bloody play too deeply.

“Macbeth” has been called theatre’s first horror story (debatable, of course; what about “Medea,” from the Greeks? There’s a play I’d like to see Synchronicity tackle!); and it qualifies, being a play where “present fears are less than horrible imaginings.” Macbeth has theatre’s most famous proleptic imagination, where the “firstlings of my heart shall be the firstlings of my hand.” Murder follows murder, if you know the plot; I’m assuming you do. If not, Google awaits.

To backtrack a bit: Ms. Schmidt’s unisex version of the play is hardly an original idea. I recall Joe Calarco’s excellent “Shakespeare’s R&J,” an all-male version of “Romeo and Juliet,” also set in a private school, produced in 2014 in Atlanta by the late Fabrefaction Theatre.

And two years ago I journeyed to Denver to catch a truly groundbreaking version of an all-male “Macbeth,” directed by Broadway’s Robert O’Hara. It was incredible; google my review in Atlanta Intown, if you wish. Like that version, the Synchronicity actors are playing character, not gender. Marianne Moore, the actor, once said, “There is something so intimate about acting; lots of things dissolve. Gender dissolves. Age dissolves. Culture dissolves. And you’re just with actors.” The current “Mac | Beth” demonstrates that.

The high school girls in the current show have no inkling of the potential power of theatre, until they get started—then it’s too late. They discover the seductive mystery of iniquity and its frightening pace, where “the very firstlings of my heart shall be the firstlings of my hand.” And blood is everywhere in this play; I would call it Shakespeare’s chief symbol here, except it’s more than symbolic.

Ms. Acker has assembled a very fine cast; the acting is potent and powerful. The cast includes Emily Nedvidek (Macbeth), Antonia LaChe (Lady Macbeth), and Anna Williford (Macduff). These three are superb. But so are the rest, all of whom play multiple parts: Ash Anderson (a powerful presence), Shannon McCarren, Jasmine Thomas, and Abby Holland.

I must say that I’m impressed with the fine voices of the cast. Shakespeare demands power, clarity of diction, and complete understanding of the text to be effective. And most of the lines are Shakespeare’s. There’s no problem here with this cast—a credit to their talents and to Ms. Acker’s assiduous, careful direction. Once the play begins, it’s off like a shot—those 90 minutes fly by.

Of course there will be those who fret, why capsulize Shakespeare? Why have only one-sex casts? I think the purists have a point, but it’s part of the cosmic genius of the Bard that his work is almost infinitely adaptable—unless the adaptation is flat out dunderheaded.

You know, we all have our personal pit of Acheron, the swamp near Macbeth’s castle where much of the devilment here is planned. Synchronicity Theatre has certainly found theirs.

For tickets and information, visit synchrotheatre.com.

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