As it intends to do every season, The Playhouse Theatre Tulsa has, with Macbeth, presented Shakespeare in modern, relevant and understandable terms.
The company, led by co-artistic directors Chris Crawford and Courtneay Sanders, debuted a year and a half ago with an outstanding production of Romeo and Juliet. In an interview prior to Macbeth's opening, the two stressed their love for Shakespeare's work and their desire to make it pertinent to modern audiences.
At the root of their success, with both Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth, which continues its run this weekend at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, is a clear understanding of Shakespeare's language and the ability to impart that understanding, not only on Playhouse's players, but on its audiences as well.
Because, for Crawford and Sanders, modernizing Shakespeare isn't about changing his tongue -- that would be like "modernizing" Neil Simon by rewriting his scripts, Crawford said -- but about setting Shakespeare's original words against a modern-day backdrop and current dress.
So Playhouse's actors traded tights and gowns for contemporary street clothes and swords for guns and have set their tale on a generic, stylized, multi-level platform set adorned with 13 golden columns that serves as everyplace and everytime.
And if one listens closely, one might almost be fooled into believing the actors are speaking the same language we speak every day.
In Macbeth, the title character (Crawford), a general in the Scottish king's army, is told by three witches he will soon be king of Scotland. Fueled by the prophecy and his own ambition, Macbeth, with the help of his wife (Sanders), sets about to hurry the fruition of the prediction, and he murders the king and queen as they sleep in his house, blaming the act on the king's guards and murdering them as well.
But being king is not enough for Macbeth; he must maintain his status as well. So he continues to kill anyone he perceives a threat to his throne, energized by a second prophecy in which the witches tell him no one born of woman can overcome him and he will not be vanquished until the woods reach his castle.
Greed and ambition have clouded Macbeth's judgment, and it's not until, driven mad by her guilt, Lady Macbeth commits suicide that Macbeth is snapped back into reality.
In the end, Macbeth meets a tragic demise, and the play ends almost exactly as it began -- with the three Weird Sisters asking one another "when shall we meet again?" leaving the audience to believe, not only is the play's beginning not the first time the three have caused such political upheaval, but also it's end shall not be their last.
Crawford, with a thorough grasp on the depth of Macbeth's character, portrays him well as one who is not just overcome with ambition but who is also struggling to maintain his grip on reality. He is human -- all the good and bad that comes with being so.
Sanders, as well, is excellent. Her Lady Macbeth is not just a woman who wants the title of queen, but one who, because of her profound love for her husband, is determined to do everything in her power to help him succeed.
Crawford also provides the show's direction and excels at that as well. The play, Shakespeare's shortest, is fast-paced, with a deliberate rhythm. Best of all, none of the actors are acting as if they're in a Shakespearean play. There are no puffed-out chests or put-on airs; rather, they are acting, and just as they would for a contemporary piece.
Macbeth continues its run this weekend, Sept. 16-18, at 7:30pm in the Tulsa PAC's John H. Williams Theatre, 110 E. 2nd St. Tickets are $35 and available at tulsapac.com.
This weekend, I took my 2-year-old son, for the first time, to see a play, Encore! Playhouse Tulsa's The Jungle Book.
It was also my first experience with children's theater, and both my son and I left quite satisfied.
The company, which operates, led by husband-wife team Josh and Mindy Barker, under the umbrella of The Playhouse Theatre Tulsa, produced a professional-quality show that employed both child and adult actors. The set and costumes were fantastic and the acting quite excellent.
And to my disbelief, the show held my son's rapt attention -- and mine as well -- for an hour and a half. Prior to the show's beginning, I was almost certain we'd have to leave at or before intermission; nothing -- not even Elmo -- has held my toddler's attention for that length of time.
He loved the animals' costumes and the physicality of their performance, while I loved the acting and genuine humor of the play.
It's certainly a testament to the work the Barkers are doing in their Saturday children's acting classes, also provided through Encore!.
Although The Jungle Book has completed its run, the company still has an entire season left. Its next show, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, is in November, and, based on the quality of The Jungle Book, I expect it will be fantastic. I'd encourage you to take your children, no matter their ages. Tickets and other information may be found at encoretulsa.com.
Here She Comes
This weekend, Theatre Tulsa opens Pageant: The Musical at the Tulsa PAC's Liddy Doenges Theatre.
Conceived by Robert Longbottom, with book and lyrics by Bill Russell and Frank Kelly and music by Albert Evans, Pageant pits six beauty queens against one another in the Glamouresse annual extravaganza. It's up to the "ladies" to sing, dance and camp it up in gowns and bathing suits for the title of "Miss Glamouresse."
A hilarious talent contest is equaled only by the zany "spokesmodel" event, which requires them to hawk the sponsor's outrageous cosmetics. At the end, the audience decides who will win the crown.
The play runs Sept. 17-18 at 7:30pm and Sept. 19 at 2pm, as well as Sept. 23-25 at 7:30pm, and tickets are $15.
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