Arts Listings

Woman’s Will ‘Macbeth’ at Jack London Square

By ken bullock
Thursday October 23, 2008 - 10:15:00 AM

By the pricking of my thumbs, 

Something wicked this way comes. 

Open locks, 

Whoever knocks. 

Just in time for Halloween, Woman’s Will is putting on a Macbeth, fearlessly (founder Erin Merritt even uttered the dread name, not “The Scottish Play,” onstage in her welcome), in Jack London Square, across from Yoshi’s. 

The sisters of Woman’s Will have played all the parts in many Bardic plays (as well as Oscar Wilde and Brecht) as they do in Macbeth —parts weird, malign and merely unfortunate. Merritt’s adaptation, directed by Joan Scout, has a little band of five playing a panorama of Scottish warriors, their dames and bairns, and all kinds of apparitions, around a screen draped with leafy vines, which become the foliage of Birnam Wood that Malcolm’s troops bear to Dunsinane. The screen conceals the Weird Sisters, who become shape-shifters, literally, in shadowplay backed up by video. 

“We always knew the Weird Sisters were running the show,” Merritt remarks, and her conceit is to have the witches change into every shape in the cast. This vaudevillization of a very melodramatic tragedy demands trouping, provided in particular by Leontyne Mbele-Mbong as a driven, then haunted Lady Macbeth, the drunken porter at the scene of the crime (with a ghastly sense of humor), a remorseless Murderer, and more. Her scenes as Lady M. with her more suggestible husband, played by Valerie Weak, give amplitude to the old paradox of the wife’s virility, driving her hesitant mate on. 

Tracy Corrigan, Desiray McFall and Julia Mitchell take on all the other roles, with only McFall sticking to one—Malcolm, heir to the throne, returning to put down a tyrant who has gone beyond his initial chivalry, his hidden ambitions and hesitancy to kill a guest in cold blood, becoming a murderous despot, before ending as a somewhat soic, somehow tragic figure, standing alone as the uncanny prophecy comes true, overwhelmed by a forest sweeping towards his castle, dispatched by a man “not of woman born.” 

Tonight through Sunday’s matinee are the last shows at Jack London Square. Next week, Macbeth will be staged at Rossmoor (Oct. 29), before opening on Halloween proper at the Exit Theater, near the Powell Street BART in San Francisco, running through Nov. 8.