Macbeth (Drunk) with Bourbon & Bard
Katie Merriman takes another shot of liquor onstage. She’s getting a hero’s cheer as she knocks back the liquor. We’re not cheering for the actual act of drinking. There’s nothing terribly heroic in swallowing hard liquor. There’s no danger here even as she handles a sword and rushes about onstage. The actress in question is poised and precise. She knows exactly how much she can drink to look impressive while maintaining complete control. No danger here. Merriman irresistibly sells the heroism of it, though. She’s got the power, beauty and charisma that makes us want the act to be heroic as she plays Macduff in Bard & Bourbon’s staging of Macbeth (Drunk.) Shakespeare’s classic drama makes it to the small stage of In Tandem’s Tenth Street Theatre this weekend.
In addition to playing Macduff, Meriman also directs the show, which follows her precision. The production is precisely as lean as it needs to be. Costuming is a mix of blacks and denims and tartan sashes. Swords are metal where they need to clang and something safer than metal when there’s danger. Pacing is excellent.
As one might guess from a frequently drinking Macduff, the production takes some liberties with mood and movement. This isn’t the traditional heavy intensity that so often weighs-down a staging of the tragedy. There’s a kind of heroism in that as well. All too often we as an audience are directed to feel the seriousness of the murder, mayhem and ambition of the proceedings. There’s a kind of a dark humor to it all that almost never seems to make it into a production of Macbeth. Bard & Bourbon valiantly unearths the dark humor in its production, deftly dispatching the dangers of embracing the sinister humor without compromising the weight of the tragedy. It’s a delicate balance and Merriman and company handle it quite well.
Christian Davis Aldridge and Keighly Sadler are handed the task of playing Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in the precarious balance of comedy and tragedy. Sadler’s sexy seductiveness carries with it a whole different kind of heroism. Sexy is very, very difficult to do in a studio theatre production of anything. Her seduction of Macbeth is quite compelling, which is quite an accomplishment given how difficult it is to make that come across in the awkwardness of a fully-staged production of Shakespeare. I’ve seen more acclaimed actors try to pull it off and fail miserably. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth can come across like a pair of wire hangers trying to have sex. Aldridge and Sadler have a believable chemistry about them that suggests the kind of sensual lust that could understandably lead to murderous lust. It’s a fun performance. One might be forgiven for almost kind of wanting them to succeed.
It’s also nice to see Joel Kopischke in a huge range of roles here from Duncan to the drunken porter to a surprisingly effective turn as Lady Macduff.
The fun ends this weekend. Bard & Bourbon’s Macbeth (Drunk) runs through May 28 at the Tenth St. Theatre on 628 N 10th St. For ticket reservations and more, visit Bard & Bourbon online.