By Jim Rutter
FOR THE INQUIRER
Only one fault mars the Hedgerow’s chilling production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth: that the audience, so close to the action in that intimate farmhouse space, nonetheless does not actually lie within the world of the play.
It’s a metaphysical objection, I realize, that no staging could surmount. However, director Dan Hodge and his design team try hard to overcome it in their vivid blend of psychological thriller and supernatural terror. In Patrick Lamborn’s WWI-era sound design, the screams of propellers and the roar of dogfights raging overhead contrast with the wails of witches wafting up from the earth.
Three weird sisters emerge, wearing trench-warfare gas masks, looting a corpse before reviving it. When Macbeth (Jared Reed) chases them off, they prophesy that he will ascend to the throne of Scotland.
Although his wife and fellow soldiers regard Macbeth as "full of the milk of human kindness” and Lady Macbeth (an excellent Jennifer Summerfield) initially giggles like a schoolgirl, they fulfill that future with deceit and murder.
Their performances infuse frustration with greed and a frightening sexual ecstasy. Reed bears out his devolution in his gait and the wracked agony of his face; he delivers each soliloquy to the audience, rendering the lines with the ominous portent of Yeats' "The Second Coming."
Their fates slouch toward Dunsinane; as Macbeth dispatches assassins (David Blatt, exceptional in multiple roles) on a killing spree, he and Lady Macbeth descend into madness. Matt Sharp’s lighting enlarges the physical space of Zoran Kovcic’s battlement set while narrowing it psychologically, darkening the walls with Macbeth's despicable actions.
The play can terrify more than any Halloween attraction, and when a man of Reed’s immensely noble bearing intones "I have lived long enough," it devastates. Hodge has crafted a world of horrors both large and minuscule from the hidden conflicts of the human heart.
And the slim gulf that separates our world from theirs enables us to contend without consequence, to connect without engendering loss, and to confront the painful truth — that sometimes "what’s done cannot be undone," and we will not find redemption.
Macbeth. Presented through November 17 at the Hedgerow Theatre, 64 Rose Valley Rd, Rose Valley. Tickets: $15 to $34. Information: 610-565-4211 or hedgerowtheatre.org