Shakespeare's shortest tragedy is one of his most magnificent, but it's quite a task to stage, perform, and watch. Director Rafael de Acha's stark, modern-dress staging of Macbeth solves some but not all of the play's formidable problems. Purists may grit their teeth at the many textual cuts and revisions. Gone from this production are the bleeding sergeant who reports Macbeth's exploits, the drunken porter who answers the knock at the gate, and the scenes depicting the murders of Banquo and Lady MacDuff and the death of Young Seward. The famous banquet scene is a stripped-down, standup cocktail party, and the climactic battle in the last act is dispensed with altogether. The famous Weird Sisters are not "withered hags" but busty, leather-clad goth grrrlz whose writhing choreography looks like something out of Chicago. De Acha emphasizes the erotic energy of Lady Macbeth, Shakespeare's most powerful female character, and as Bridget Connors plays her, it's easy to see how Macbeth would bend to his wife's will. Connors' fiery, sensual performance combines verbal felicity with emotional and physical commitment. In the title role, Keith Cassidy brings a modern intensity and physical power; for once, this muscular Macbeth actually looks like a warrior. But Cassidy lacks a mastery of the text; many speeches are mangled with odd pauses and phrasings, and he doesn't use the language to drive the story forward. (Through August 28 at New Theatre, 4120 Laguna St., Coral Gables. Call 305-443-5909.)
In Talley's Folly, by Lanford "American Theater Icon" Wilson, it's July 4, 1944, and middle-aged St. Louis accountant Matt Friedman has driven under cover of night to woo spinster Sally Talley on her family farm in bucolic Lebanon, Missouri. Matt lures Sally down to the family's elaborate, decaying, Victorian boathouse -- the eccentric "folly" built by Sally's ancestors. As crickets chirp this Independence Day, what are an aggressive suitor and his reluctant girl to do? Chatter for an hour and a half, of course, about regrets, secret pasts, and pessimistic visions of their future. However, by the time the mysteries behind Matt's existence as a refugee Jew and Sally's spinsterhood are dropped in the last 20 minutes, you just don't care anymore. The production's actors don't fully occupy their roles in the way this "waltz" of a play requires and are mired in a play perhaps only a true Lanford Wilson lover will appreciate. (Through August 28 at Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Rd., Coral Springs. Call 954-344-7765.)
Sisters of Swing: The Andrews Sisters, who rose to megastardom during the World War II Big Band era, were the Dixie Chicks of their time. During their long career, the three recorded more than 700 songs and sold more than 90 million records. Getting behind the home-front-girl iconography is the musical's well-realized intention. Among the production's many surprises -- besides an excellent supporting six-piece band, a retro Big Band orchestra set, and clever musical arrangements -- is the ambitious legwork of the play's two male costar Everymen. Whatever energy created the Andrews Sisters phenomenon is also rabidly contagious. The talented cast and crew of this play have caught that energy and are having as much fun giving good show as the real Andrews Sisters certainly had. (Through August 28 at the Florida Stage, 262 S. Ocean Blvd., Manalapan. Call 561-585-3433.)
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