Amid the baby-powder stink of the smoke machines and the screech of the techno soundtrack, actors in halfhearted kabuki makeup file onstage. Garbed in industrial tunics Nine Inch Nails goes to feudal Scotland and surrounded by metalwork props and Francis Bacon carcasses, they prove that the Theater of Cruelty is alive and well and living in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, in Resistance Theater's production of Heiner Müller's Macbeth, the lion's share of the cruelty is visited upon the audience.
Being unfamiliar with Müller's original German text, it's difficult to decide whether blame ought to be laid at the playwright's feet or those of translator Stefan Hintsches. Perhaps both. The play consists of Shakespeare's lines stripped of iambic pentameter and linguistic precision, like a Stanislavsky exercise in paraphrase meant only for rehearsal rooms. The few nods to the vernacular or the reconjecturing of certain speeches hardly atone for the script's pedestrian vocabulary and didacticism (e.g., "Is that a dagger, its handle searching for my hand? . . . I don't have you, but I see you very well.").
Language aside, some of Müller's deviations from the original betray incisiveness and insight. He condemns the world of the play as one built on powerlust and slaughter, depicting the guilt-ridden king as no more or less culpable than any of the surrounding characters. Yet such provocative notions lose force under Christopher Weston's heavy-handed direction. Relying upon stylized movement and stark (read: inadequate) lighting, Weston neglects basic manners like diction and the communication of narrative. His style may be bloody, bold, and resolute, but it makes for an excruciating stay at Dunsinane.