I suspect I will remember moments from NoExit Performance’s “This is Not Shakespeare’s Macbeth” long after I’ve forgotten other productions of the Scottish play. (Just about all I can recall from the IRT’s from a few seasons back is the unfortunate decision to have the witches recite the names of the show's corporate sponsors.)
That’s because NoExit specializes in moments. Its Oedipus trilogy may not have been totally coherent as drama, but its death-masked characters lost on the Indianapolis Museum of Art grounds and its soaking fountain fight weren’t easy to shake.
No surprise that its insane-asylum-set “Macbeth” variation (through June 29 at the Irvington Office Center) is built on such moments: the violent strapping down of its central character; a drop pulled down suddenly to expand the playing space; or, most spectacularly, a corpse dragged along on the makeshift train of Lady Macbeth’s gown as she attempts to wash the blood from her hands.
But whose story are we watching? The prologue introduced a character who shortly disappeared into the crowd of patients. Are we meant to understand the rushed and slurred speeches, to take seriously the over-enunciating of the borderline-parody doctor? The Macbeth equivalent (Matt Goodrich) clearly is a psychological mess, but are we seeing his hallucinations/fantasy, or is there some grounding in reality? Is the nurse/Lady Macbeth also mad? Does she exist at all?
I’m assuming director/adaptor Michael Burke has worked all of this out—that the company knows the truth of what they are playing. But that truth hasn’t been communicated through the show. That could be NoExit being deliberately enigmatic. Or it could be that, with a focus on the moments, the big picture lost focus.
“This is Not Shakespeare’s Macbeth” is a tale told by a smart, inventive company, full of sound and fury, symbolizing who knows what.