"Out damned spot out..." This line tragically uttered by Lady Macbeth is probably one of the more memorable lines in Shakespeare's Macbeth and it also was one of the more memorable moments in Theatre Y's production now playing at the Chopin Theatre.
The role of Lady Macbeth, played by Katie Stimpson, really comes to life as she deftly portrays the deceptive, ambitious and manipulative wife who urges her husband Macbeth (played by the equally talented Brendan Mulhern) to commit the treasonous act of murdering the King of Scotland in order to fulfill a prophecy, told to them by a trio of witches, that one day Macbeth would be king.
But the weight of her duplicity plagues her with misery as she has bouts of sleepwalking and envisions blood stains on her own hands: "Out damned spot out..." Stimpson plays the role with such an ethereal quality that the vacillation between the blood thirst of Lady Macbeth's ambitions from the play's opening to the tortured consequences of those actions has a lot of resonance.
Also, Mulhern's physical approach and embodiment of the role shows the depth of Macbeth's paranoia and guilt over his own actions and weakness. The scene where Macbeth imagines seeing the bloody dagger hanging in the air, though invisible to the audience, is a perfect example of the type of energy he brings the role. Even without the use of a prop, it is quite visual in its depth and impact.
This production of Macbeth, part of the year-long Chicago Shakespeare 400 International Arts Festival, was directed by French actor Georges Bigot. He has performed a number of classic roles from Greek tragedies to Shakespearean plays including Twelfth Night and Henry IV as well as directed about a half dozen plays including Chekhov's "The Seagull" and a Khmer adaptation of Norodom Sihanouk.
Bigot provides a very interesting interpretation of the classic starting with a dark and foreboding set. Props are sparse and much of the action and energy are purveyed through the physicality of the actors. An improvised "orchestra pit" sits over to the side providing musical interludes both live and recorded.
The costume design by Branimira Ivanova is an interesting mix from the camouflage military uniforms worn by the soldiers in the opening scenes to the modern dress clothes at the party at Macbeth's castle as well as the somewhat Hippies style of the three witches.
A fascinating tidbit about this play is that it was rehearsed for nearly a year and the brand new Theatre Y Ensemble was birthed out of the process.
"This production of Macbeth is the fruit of a laboratory that began a year ago and which is still ongoing," Bigot says in his director's note. "I wanted to impart the spirit of an ensemble that would 'do theatre in the Public Service,' a spirit I first encountered at the Theatre du Soleil in Paris, but which I recognized instantly in the artists I was able to gather at Theatre Y."
The chemistry of the cast was certainly a plus in pulling off some of the most complex scenes including the ending fight scene between Macbeth and Macduff.
Macbeth runs through Dec. 4 at the Chopin Theatre. Tickets are available at www.chopintheatre.com.