Macbett
Greasy Joan Productions, Division 13

Recommended - J. Abarbanel, National Public Radio
Nominated Jeff Award

"Director Joanna Settle clearly has an exacting vision;.. sublimely garish set–a severe expanse of wood-grain paneling and featureless carpet that lumbers gracelessly almost into the audience’s lap--Settle’s use of the Chopin Theatre’s cavernous space produces more than a few ingenious surprises" - Chicago Reader


12/26/00 - 1/21/01


A New Look - Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune 12/13/00 - ""For the Division 13/Greasy Joan & Co.'s revival of Ionesco's "Macbett," designer Andrew Lieberman has turned the expansive Chopin Theatre into something akin to an absurdist shooting range.


Deep trenches run across the playing area (which is made of the kind of wooden paneling one associates with a dated suburban basement) allowing performers to pop up and down like unwitting targets for a viewer's gun.
And because she's a director who loves to play around with sudden departures and the various other nuances of eclectic post-modernism, director Joanna Settle here behaves like a creative kid set loose in a room full of neat toys and other kids.

Remarkably enough, it all works quite well.

Penned late in his career in 1972, Ionesco's caricature of Shakespeare's "Macbeth" is not the Romanian absurdist's deepest play and, as a result, it's not done all that often. Even Ionesco's greatest fans tend to acknowledge that the so-called father of absurdism struggled to master the demands of the full-length play.

To appreciate this show, you need to know the original, since "Macbett" parallels the dramatic action almost in its entirety ("Macbett" has been accurately described as a jazz riff on "Macbeth"). But in Ionesco's hands, the characters of the tragedy are victims of fate or circumstance but hubris-filled idiots who screw up their own lives.
In this version of the Scottish play, the predictions of the witches (and what were they ever about anyway?) really do come true and Macbettis crowned king. Only there are, well, problems. Ionesco was a dab hand at layering one conspiracy theory on top of another until paranoia has pretty much taken over whatever fantastical world he has posited.

When you see "Macbett," it's generally in the 1973 translation by Charles Maarowitz, but this production features a new and clever adaptation by Greasy Joan's Gavin Witt (who also serves as the dramaturg at the Northlight Theatre). Witt's work is quite strong--it's full of smart, funny touches and gives the affair some much-needed freshness and vitality.
Settle tends to work best with this kind of intellectually comic script. Anchored by the original clear narrative, she's able to play with anachronisms and visual tricks to her heart's content and this show is full of interest and amusement, even though the running time comes close to three hours.

This new collaboration between Division 13 (formerly Thirteenth Tribe) and Greasy Joan looks like a blessing for both troupes. Division 13's performers like Katie Taber, who plays Lady Macbett and Anne DeAcetis (who plays several parts) tends to have a lighter, edgier touch than the Greasy Joan classicists. Then again, Witt's dramaturgical surefootedness keeps Settle on a firmer footing where storytelling is concerned."

 



"Director Joanna Settle clearly has an exacting vision; it seems no element escapes her notice in this production of Eugene Ionesco’s dark, absurdist romp through Shakespeare’s Macbeth. On Andrew Lieberman’s sublimely garish set–a severe expanse of wood-grain paneling and featureless carpet that lumbers gracelessly almost into the audience’s lap–the play seems a kind of nightmarish raver party. The tyrant archduke Duncan is a dissipated, pajama-clad hedonist doted upon by his ultra fey assistant. His wife, a thrift-store dominatrix in mile-high heels, betrays him by conspiring with twin assassins, Macbett and Banquo, who seem pulled from a 1980 new wave clothing catalog. Once Macbett assumes the throne, he’s transformed into a maniacal Vegas performer surrounded by sycophantic minions in white isolation suits and Day-Glo plastic wigs. Visually this Macbett is always interesting, and Settle’s use of the Chopin Theatre’s cavernous space produces more than a few ingenious surprises" - Chicago Reader

Author
Eugene Ionesco with translation by Gavin Witt

Director
Joanna Settle

Performers
Eve Alexander, Aaron Cedolia, Anne DeAcetis, David Divita, Keith Eric Davis, James Foster, Tom Groenwald, Terry Hamilton, Warren Jackson, Thomas Jones, Alfred Kemp, Matthew Krause, Tanera Marshall, Eamon McDonagh, Katie Taber, Justin Wade

Production
Alex Blunt, Ruth Helms, Heather Chappell, Kathy Van Zwoll, Andrew Lieberman, Stacy Ellen Rich, Gwen Grossman, Mike Frank, Andre Pluess

Tags: Theater, Old Europe, 2000