Thursday, August 23, 2012

Shakespeare at Large

HARSH-O-RAMA. That's my one-word summary of this review of the one-man Macbeth just performed at the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival.

"Sometimes knowing the title of a show is enough without actually needing to see it.
The very idea of one guy — Shakespearean actor Jeff Hoffman — doing the entire Scottish Play all by himself, and in a half hour, no less, is hilarious.
The execution? Not so much.
The first problem is that Hoffman doesn't seem to know whether this is a comedy or a tragedy.
 It's a tragedy, of course. Macbeth is Shakespeare's darkest play, has one of the largest body counts, most gruesome deaths.
Hoffman uses rapid-fire delivery, physical comedy and sudden, startling pop culture references to sketch the story.
There are some very funny bits that bring the audience into a "comedy rhythm," expecting a like number of "jokes per minute" to follow.
 But they don't. Instead, we get long snatches of Shakespearean dialogue.
That's all well and good, but the switching of dramatic gears is jarring.
Moreover, you'd have to know your Shakespeare very, very well to understand what the hell is going on.
When it's all there in front of you, even Shakespeare newbies can slip into the rhythm of the language and follow the story, but Hoffman chops it up.
He also has to leave a lot of material out.
You may feel like you've fallen asleep in math class.
It's not a good sign when a 30-minute play feels like it drags by — even with the hysterical overacting.
All the familiar parts are here, of course: The three witches (pared down to one), the murder, the blood on Lady Macbeth's hands, the ghost, the final battle, the "to be or not to be," the "wherefore are thou?" and ....
Wait, why is he putting in lines from other Shakespeare plays when he only has a half hour for the original three-hour Macbeth?
Inside jokes
Another inside joke.
This isn't a bad idea, but it comes off like it's aimed exclusively at Shakespeare scholars, which, let's face it, make up a small percentage of the theatre-going public.
This seems to be the only Shakespeare at the Fringe this year, however, so One Man Macbeth should hopefully find its perfect audience before it's over."
Wish the author did a comparison to Alan Cummings' recent one-man Macbeth at Lincoln Center. (And by the way, what is UP with the one-man Macbeth thing?). 

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