Thursday, February 5, 2015

Dunsinane Theatre Review

Darrell D'Silva & Siobhan Redmond (r) star in Dunsinane

Everything is Possible

Who shot J.R.? Better yet, who killed Lady Macbeth? We know Kristin (Mary Crosby) was the former; but what happened to the feisty Queen of Scotland? Turns out she's still alive and kicking (heavy emphasis on the latter) in David Greig's Dunsinane, directed by Roxana Silbert, and playing at Sidney Harman Hall through February 21st. Considering it's an unofficial sequel more than four centuries in the making, it's surprisingly compelling with masterful performances by its two leads... Siobhan Redmond as Gruach/Lady Macbeth and Darrell D'Silva as English nobleman/warrior Siward. In other words, a must-see.

Lest you think you're in for a rehash of Shakespeare's Macbeth, think again. The play begins with a Rolling Stones-esque musical opening, courtesy of a shadowy trio (Rosalind Acton, Robert Owen & Andy Taylor) playing just off stage. Needless to say, this modern twist sets the stage for what's yet to come. It's still bows & arrows (thankfully no machine guns) but Dunsinane has a fresh feel - consistent with the fact that it was written only five years ago. Gruach is especially modern, and expertly portrayed by Redmond, a real Scot (hence the spot-on accent, another refreshing attribute.) Gone is the guilt that may have led Lady Macbeth to suicide: She's one cool customer, perfectly at ease in a position of leadership and strength... but still feminine enough to turn a few heads.

One of those heads belongs to the equally adept Siward (every time you hear his name, it sounds like c-word... weird) whose role it is (or seems to be) to bring on the peace, then keep it. No easy task, especially when he's surrounded by the likes of the vulturous Malcolm (played by an appropriately smarmy Ewan Donald.) D'Silva's Siward is an optimistic hero; but he plays the part with just enough uncertainty to make him likable.

 Ewan Donald as Malcolm (Photo: KPO Photo)

There's lots to like (bits of humor and buffoonery, compromise and treachery) but most of it is limited to Gruach, Siward and Malcolm. Malcolm is especially good at earning laughs via sarcasm. Take for instance, his love of country, "I like the way nobody in England wanted to kill me." Well, I suppose that's one good reason to miss home. Not to be outdone, Gruach toys with her captors by threatening curses and admitting to eating babies, "Have you never eaten baby meat?" Cue terror in the ranks. Come to think of it, I'd probably be scared of her too.

The only one seemingly immune to her bad side is the aforementioned Siward, an idealistic Rico Suave with the weight of the world on his broad shoulders, "I am Siward. I am England. I am here to bring order." Evidently, he's also here to bend/melt Gruach's heart. His chemistry with the current and future Queen of Scotland keeps the show lively. He also butts heads with the cocky Malcolm, creating plenty of tension (yet another good attribute.) While he looks older than the rest of the cast, there's no denying D'Silva's unabashed strength and booming voice: I can't wait to see him again.

Set design (Robert Innes Hopkins) is solid, if not spectacular. It's a simple look... a row of concrete steps, a Celtic cross and a door with a few odds & ends strewn about - but it works. Snowfall in the show's second half lends an almost magical atmosphere to the production; and there's just enough music in between scenes, to keep things interesting.

Ultimately, Dunsinane strikes a chord with its subtle political messages... some of which seem clipped from today's headlines. Siward does all he can to put an end to the madness; but the more he does, the more things seem to evolve and revolve. Sound familiar? It's impossible to match the wit and wisdom of William Shakespeare; but Greig proves that there are still roads worth exploring. Thanks for taking us along for the ride.

Grade: B