Off Broadway

The Wild Energy of School Girls Explodes Inside Mac Beth

The Wild Energy of School Girls Explodes Inside Mac Beth

Played out in some empty lot under a cloudy dark sky, a group of school girls dive into a restructured and enlightened Mac Beth, courtesy of Red Bull Theater and the director/adaptor Erica Schmidt (Old Globe’s Richard II), in order to find their collective internal demon and lash out at the system that holds them cloistered and restrained. It’s a breathtakingly brilliant recreation, one where the three weird school girl sisters, giddy and purposefully played with energy and glee by Annasophia Robb (Hulu’s “The Act“), Sophie Kelly-Hendrick (PH’s Theatre School), and Sharlene Cruz (Harlem Rep’s Den of Thieves), cast a spell over the square lot (and us), finding the mischief and the cleverness in each line and movement. They carry the modern and the iconic with ease, all the the young female actors, bringing in references to classes and texts when needed. Their heat and force is found in the conjuring of the great quell, dressed appropriately and smartly in uniform by costume designer Jessica Pabst (Vineyard’s The Amateurs), as school bags are stowed and Shakespeare’s iconic text is manipulated: heightened, enlargened, and tightened into a condensed but powerful one act piece of storytelling. “Bow down to these bitches” as what Schmidt has accomplished in her restructuring shows her to be the “dearest partner of greatness” to the text and strength of purpose. The young deviously adolescent women sell us this story with an energy and intensity too wild and wonderful to miss. It’s poetry, passion, and pleasure, played out to feed our voracious souls and to give a ferociousness of feeling to these girls, riding high on that perfectly played couch, immersing themselves in the dark savage Scottish text.

Ismenia Mendes and Isabelle Fuhrman. Photo credit: Carol Rosegg.

Isabelle Fuhrman (TNG’s All The Fine Boys) as Macbeth is as seriously voiced as you could hope for and want in the lead role. Frantic and spell-bound in that back lot in front of that turned over couch, we find ourselves thoroughly in Macbeth‘s Scottish heath, courtesy of the wondrous scenic design by Catherine Cornell (Heritage Theatre’s Harvey) and stormy lighting Jeff Croiter (Broadway’s Bandstand). The moment when Lady Macbeth, perfectly inhabited by the glorious Ismenia Mendes (CSC’s The Liar) states the steadfast purpose in their shared desire is spellbinding; as still and powerful as the witchcraft could celebrate or the disturbing obsessiveness of her hand washing. Banquo, as portrayed with slyness and silliness by Ayana Workman (Public’s Romeo and Juliet) rises to the occasion to every conceivable moment, even when she has spilt wine to deal with, finding hilarious power in her zombie ghost haunting, and driving forward the delicate balance of girlie pleasure and adolescent obsessive violence served up with Twizzlers, loud mosh pit music, and phone videos.

Sophie Kelly-Hedrick, Sharlene Cruz, and AnnaSophia Robb. Photo credit: Carol Rosegg.

The deep emotional sounds of dogs barking in the night and thunder, beautifully integrated by sound designer Erin Bednarz (Rattlestick’s The Convent), ricochet, float, and respond to the boisterous young girls wild abandonment in the rain. Their energy fills the air and space with tension in their discarding of polite norms and engagement with the witches’ mischief. Arriving late to the party, Macduff, portrayed with solidness by Lily Santiago (George Street’s A Doll’s House, Part 2), feels it like a man even when punished or scolded by the others, only to dispute it like a man. The gendered references by these young women to one another, particularly about being manly and purposeful shakes up our senses in what these words all mean, especially in a play where women play a deciding factor in pushing Macbeth forward. It plays with our head in just the right manner, poking and prodding us to reevaluate gender norms and assumptions, much like the cheeky drunken porter fulfilling his theatrical duty and teaching us about the follies of letting go. Much can be learned by this incantation, like the simplicity of this cast of seven bringing a forest and an epic battle to the forefront with deliberate action infused with a successfully dynamic and emotional weight.

Macbeth0033 (1)
Sharlene Cruz, Anna Sophia Robb, Sophie Kelly-Hedrick. Photo credit: Carol Rosegg.

Schmidt’s Mac Beth caldron is diabolically tended to with a silly power of teenage angst and anger just under the lid, but it gets a bit sloppy and hard to comprehend for a brief spell with the savage rain dance and the parade of baby kings. The electricity overrides the word play and drama in that high energy and somewhat chilling moment, but the movement coordinator, Lorenzo Pisoni (Broadway’s Gary) pulls it in while firing up the violent energy that is slowly taking over these girls. This Mac Bethpulls them into the darkest of deeds, almost as if the earlier Lady Macbeth was leading them with her mad drive. Wine will be spilled, and the three weird school girl sisters will fly off into the night, leaving us shaken by what we just witnessed and the brutality that lies just under the pressed uniforms of these young ladies. It’s dynamic and gloriously barbarous, this Mac Beth, and even more shockingly vicious and merciless coming from the tender hands of these young school girls. Be ready, and “remember the porter“.

The cast in a scene from MAC BETH, adapted and directed by Erica Schmidt from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Red Bull Theater at Lucille Lortel Theatre. Photo credit: Carol Rosegg.

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Off Broadway

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to

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