Sunday, May 1, 2016

Carolina Ballet's Macbeth - a dance of betrayal

Macbeth is such a timeless tale that even without words, it's brutal story transcends. That's the beauty of Robert Weiss's interpretation of the 400 year old Shakespeare play as a full length ballet performance by the Carolina Ballet.

So much was compelling it was hard to keep track, so I decided to make a list...

  • The dancers were so remarkably talented, not only in their technical skill, but also in using their form to emote scenes that would otherwise have pages of dialogue. You could see the anguish in the face of Lady Macbeth when her infant dies, the fear in Lady Macduff's eyes as she's being persued by assassins. As a graduate of University of North Carolina School of the Arts, I am quite familiar with the works of the bard. One thing that makes his work so universally appealing is that if you can get past the antiquated terminology, the wordiness, if you can sit with it and understand the intention of the phrase, then the deeper meaning comes through in aces. This is how audiences of middle schoolers can understand a Shakespeare comedy when half the words are simply unknown to them - it falls on the actors, and in this case, dancers to interpret it for us the audience. One of the principals, Richard Krusch, is a fellow UNCSA graduate, and you can see how he and his fellow dancers gracefully interpret pages of words into movement, and lose nothing in translation.
  • My favorite scene might be the dance in the bridal chamber of Macbeth and his new bride (Marcelo Martinez and Lara O'Brien). They seemed to flow through the space like water and as they made their way to the bed, their lust overcame them in a series of spins and flips that made me sit up in my seat. It was an incredibly creative protrayal of passion.
  • What would Macbeth be without his war? The swords and axes clinked and shone in the lights, and the jabs and slices of deadly injuries looked so convincing. Weiss did an amazing job of juxtaposing fight choreography to rival Game of Thrones with Lady Macbeth's pregnancy and eventual loss. It was a brilliant way of demonstrating how cruel life's twists and turns are, both to enlisted men and innocents alike.
  • The set decoration by Jeff A. R. Jones was simply stunning. Giant rock faces, craggly trees and roots, smoke and fire all combined to set a foreboding stage for the drama. I really loved several moments, one where the rocks split just slightly to let angry red light in, a crack in the sky demonstrating the fissure in their pact to win at all costs. And at the end of the first act, the Macbeths are attempting to clean their bloodied hands when a ceiling of red string detaches upon them seconds before the curtain descends. It was unexpected and beautiful.

  • The costumes, of course, were gorgeous. The woodland witches had crowns of jagged twigs reaching for the sky, with the same wrapped around their wrists, threatening to entangle anyone who got near. Lady Macbeth was introduced to us in a lovely white bridal gown, and as the libretto went on her outfits became darker and darker red, until the very end. My absolute favorite moment of the play was in Lady's last scene when she is once again wearing white, this time a facade, no longer innocent by any means. Her eyes are wild with paranoia, and she gasps at her clean hands, imagines them covered in blood and desperate to clean them wipes them on her pristine gown. In their genius, they made red bloodstains on her gown appear as she wipes, even as her hands remain clean. Her descent into madness marked by the streaks of red guilt all over her.
  • The original score was composed by JMark Scearce, arguably our state's best composer. The scenes with a happy score of love soon were outnumbered by brutal battle marches, but what I most enjoyed was when characters found themselves surrounded by enemies when they least expected it, or when they had to keep outward appearances even though guilty of heinous things. In these moments, the music soared for me, as he combined the traditional themes adding in minor chords and haunting vocals, creating an desperate and foreboding atmosphere you knew they couldn't escape.
Portrayal of the horrors of war and the intricacies of political betrayal through dance is quite a feat, and Carolina Ballet has truly brought something new to the drama with the nimble feet of North Carolina's most talented dancers. It certainly rings eerily true during a time when our state finds itself embroiled in controversy, when our nation is divided with hateful rhetoric. What cost is the crown? And who pays it? As the curtain closes on Macbeth, the witch's predictions having come true but only after great bloodshed and sacrifice, it becomes clear - we all do.

The final performance of MacBeth is today, Sunday, May 1st at 2pm at DPAC. Find tickets here. And just for Stir Crazy readers, ust use the code “MB2016" through the DPAC box office to receive 20% off your tickets!

FTC disclosure: I was given two tickets so that I could review the performance. No positive review was asked for or promised, and the opinions are my own.

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