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Barre Players turns in muscular `Macbeth'.

Byline: Paul Kolas

COLUMN: THEATER REVIEW

BARRE - "Macbeth" is a bloodfest dripping with irony, populated with characters driven by ambition in perversely diverse ways.

Barre Players' intelligent and muscular production is a largely successful feast for the eyes and ears, from director Doug Ingalls' primordial and foreboding Stonehenge-like set to his generally well-chosen cast. Sean Gardell may be a particularly youthful embodiment of Macbeth, but this quality works to his advantage. Gardell plays him with a full arsenal of intensely conflicting emotions. From the moment the three witches (Sandy Pickens, Jane Becker and Joanna Tivnan) tell Macbeth he will be made thane of Cawdor, and later king of Scotland, Gardell adeptly reflects the mix of elation and unease such a prophecy brings him.

He's not a villain in the classic sense, his desire to be king blunted by the guilt of murdering King Duncan (Peter Holmes) to secure the throne. Gardell nicely balances the fine line between outer bravado and inner turmoil.

As events continue to spiral out of control, and the body count inexorably mounts, Macbeth seems to surrender to his tragic fate with a soldier's resolve in a well-executed swordfight with the thane Macduff (Bruce Adams).

One of the great pleasures of "Macbeth" is watching Lady Macbeth (Wendy Scott) vicariously calling the shots. She's a monster manipulator more ruthless and ambitious than her husband, pushing him along to do an evil deed she herself cannot do. Together they make a formidable villain, but separately, they're undone by their own individual weaknesses. Scott gracefully delineates Lady Macbeth's descent into madness, her seemingly invincible fortitude beaten down by unexpected hallucinatory guilt.

Not that someone as implicitly evil as Lady Macbeth would ever elicit our sympathy, but Scott deserves some measure of pity by the time she delivers the famous "Out, damned spot, out I say" speech. She and Gardell work well together, as she goads him about his "manhood" and wishes she were "unsexed" to kill Duncan herself.

Yet, as weak as Macbeth may appear to be on the surface, at least he goes down swinging. Lady Macbeth, unable to cope with her guilt, chooses another alternative.

In a play extolling the virtues of manhood, Will Gelinas turns in a burly, authoritative performance as Malcolm, King Duncan's elder son, eventually supplanting the slain and beheaded Macbeth as king of Scotland and promising peaceful times ahead.

He and Adams (a commendable Macduff) ruminate about the true nature of masculinity after Macduff learns his wife and children have been murdered by Macbeth's henchmen: revenge must be tempered with feeling. Pickens, Becker and Tivnan vibrantly enact the three witches, spinning their prophesies with deleterious delight. Carol Vancil has two commandingly effective scenes as Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft.

Also noteworthy in this expansive tapestry are Holmes as King Duncan, Chris Flynn as Banquo, Macbeth's ill-fated comrade-in-arms, Todd Vickstrom as the thane Ross, Erik Evan Johnsen as a captain in Macbeth's army, Dave Glanville as the thane Lennox, Robbin Joyce as Lady Macduff, Robert C. Latino as a lord, and Charles Tower as an impudent porter. There are times when the tempo could be picked up a bit, but on the whole, it's a bloody good show, "sound and fury" signifying something.

`Macbeth'

* * *-1/2

By William Shakespeare, directed by Doug Ingalls. Presented by Barre Players at the Barre Players Theater, 64 Common St., Barre. Performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $14 general admission, $12 seniors 65 and older, $10 full-time students with ID, $7 children 12 and younger. With Sean Gardell, Wendy Scott, Will Gelinas, Peter Holmes, Chris Flynn, Sandy Pickens, Jane Becker, Joanna Tivnan, Bruce Adams, Dan Lindgren, Carol Vancil, Erik Evan Johnsen, Todd Vickstrom, Dave Glanville, Robbin Joyce, Robert C. Latino, Charles Tower and Sandy McKenna.

Key to the Stars

* * * * ... Hot Stuff

* * * ... Good Job

* * ... Not Bad

* ... Never Mind
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Title Annotation:LIVING
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 10, 2008
Words:646
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