In a Shakespeare production, the stakes for performance are high. Actors meet an audience imbued with expectation: they must assume that all or most not only know the story, but probably have seen it performed before too. This expectation is met in the Aquila Theatre’s Macbeth, now in New York on the last leg of its eight-month national tour.
Scenes unfold with film-like seamlessness thanks to Desiree Sanchez, the former Metropolitan Opera ballerina who served as director and producer, and Peter Meineck, the entity’s founder and lighting designer. Lights swivel, shadows flit in the darkness, and dark figures flood the stage. Sound and sight are closely guarded, and neither is spared in the creation of a truly haunting effect. Blood drips loudly to the floor from the hands of Macbeth (played by Guy Oliver-Watts), creating the iconic spot that remains for the duration of the performance. Lady Macbeth (played by Rebecca Reany), feverishly rubs her hands over a spotlight while a loud chafing sound accompanies her crazed soliloquy. Banquo, played by Peter Gardiner, takes on a frightening dimension in the final acts by contorting himself in torment amidst complete silence, allowing him to convey the full impact of Macbeth’s treachery and unnatural intent.
Under Sanchez’s direction, all movements are deliberate and actors are in full command of the Gym at Judson, which was recently converted to a minimalist theater. For two hours, the Aquila company directs a descent into Shakespeare’s world, where viewers fall into an envied sleep and fitfully dream of those who sleep no more.