MACBETH (Hedgrow): An ambitious and effective take on the Scottish play

Hedgerow Macbeth review

Jennifer Summerfield as Lady Macbeth; Jared Reed as Macbeth at Hedgerow Theatre. Photo by Kyle Cassidy.

Director Dan Hodge does not mind imposing his vision upon a text. His bold decision to combine the Ariel and Miranda characters proved surprisingly effective.in last season’s The Tempest at Curio Theatre. He places a similarly inventive stamp on Hedgerow’s World War I–era MACBETH—staging a Banquo’s ghost scene without the ghost, revamping and expanding the character of Seyton (Macbeth’s attendant, played sinisterly by David Blatt)—with similarly effective results.

As the title character, Jared Reed walks a perfect line between Macbeth’s stated military strength and his solipsistic uncertainty. His understanding of the work is apparent, though lights and staging sometimes over-emphasize the “this is a soliloquy” theatricality of the monologues.

Jennifer Summerfield shines as Lady Macbeth. The character’s murderous cunning bubbles through the earlier scenes; her madness is conveyed in the second act. Too often, the character’s strength and hysteria seem incongrous, so an actor gives fine deliveries of each, but doesn’t unite them into a coherent character. Summerfield and her director accomplish this superbly. Brian McCann’s limping MacDuff and John Lopes’s Duncan are also well-rendered.

Not all of Hodge’s decisions prove effective. The seamless scene-change staging first act makes the chronology unclear; the loudspeaker renditions of the witches second prophecies (Birnam Woods, “None of woman born”) are muffled, robbing the drama out of Macbeth’s battle against fate. Not every cast member reaches the heights of Reed and Summerfield.

But Hodge has done an admirable job of shaping a Shakespeare work to his vision, breathing insightful new life into the familiar play without any of the changes or decisions coming off as gimmicks. “Art not without ambition, but without the illness should attend it.” October 17-November 17, 2013, hedgerowtheatre.org.

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Christopher Munden

Your faithful correspondent and publisher Christopher Munden has written and edited for many publications, websites, and cultural institutions. He was an editor/publisher of the Philly Fiction book series, collections of short stories written by local writers and set in Philadelphia. He's also a soccer coach and a pretty good skier.