Rehearsal can be murder. Or so director Anne Bogart suggests in SITI Company’s stylish and playful, if somewhat hollow, reworking of Macbeth. Set in the 1930s, in the bowels of a darkened theater, Radio Macbeth, at Dance Theater Workshop, follows a group of actors who gather late at night to rehearse a live broadcast of the Scottish play.
Comedy doesn’t come easily to Bogart, as last season’s production of Freshwater amply demonstrated. But she and co-director Darron L. West apply an unexpectedly light touch to the tragedy, conjuring surprised laughs from an actress’s business with a teacup or a script girl’s frustrations. They also add the occasional shiver, as when a ladder topples or the lights suddenly burn out. The play even finds a mischievous echo of Macbeth’s usurpation: The director of the piece (Stephen Duff Webber) swans in and steals the part from the company’s leading man (Will Bond).
As the rehearsal continues, the play starts to have unfortunate effects on the corps. Might the actor playing Duncan (Bond again) actually have died? Might the stress have driven the woman enacting Lady Macbeth (Ellen Lauren) insane?
It’s all good fun, and, at an hour and 45 minutes, also quite brisk. But as you become comfortable with the play’s conceit, you begin to wonder what it was that particularly attracted these directors to Macbeth. Aside from its reputation as a jinx for directors and actors, Bogart and West don’t seem to have much to say about the play itself—about kingship, about guilt and responsibility, even about the workings of the supernatural. There’s sound here (designed by West and very nice) and fury, too. But just what is it signifying?