Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A TALE TOLD BY AN IDIOT is rated "GO!" in LA Weekly and "Critic's Pick" in Backstage.

From LA WEEKLY, July 14, 2010

by Steven Leigh Morris

A new L.A.-based ensemble called Psittacus Productions is extending a performance of A Tale Told by an Idiot from the Hollywood Fringe at Son of Semele Theater. It's a mash up of Shakespeare's Macbeth that includes the character of Guy Fawkes - which suggests an influence from Bill Cain's Equivocation. Every scene of the hour-long piece is a plot against somebody's life or a murder, starring - among the very strong ensemble - the lighting plot of designer Dan Weingarten. The action unfolds behind a scrim and is lit entirely with pin-lights. Some on the floor, some held by the performers. The effect is for the entire play, we see only faces, and shifting eyes, and shadows creeping across scrims and walls. The three witches (Casey Fitzgerald, Madeline Hamer and Liz Saydah) appear in masks, and all we see are those masks, or three hands crawling up a wall, or feet tremulously stepping. In some scenes we just see two daggers, barely illuminated, and little more. With composer Graham Galatro's composition, the effect is mesmerizing, culminating in the closing line, that comes in Macbeth right before the more famous "Tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing." The line that lingers is that line's direct predecessor : "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more." And this is the lucid essence of the piece. Fine performances also by Casey Brown, Louis Butelli, Lisa Carter, Daryl Crittenden, Darin Dahms and Chas LiBretto. Robert Richmond directs. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 25. (646) 425-4615. (Steven Leigh Morris)

From BACKSTAGE, July 14, 2010

by Jennie Webb

A TALE TOLD BY AN IDIOT. "Critic's Pick."
Vaulting ambition that threatens to destroy a country, heinous acts done in the dead of night in the name of a higher cause, and the labyrinthian politics of marriage where no hands remain clean are the stuff of Shakespeare's "Macbeth." And by distilling his text and characters then throwing in a marvelous—almost contemporary—twist, Psittacus Productions makes us realize why this is a tale that will always demand an audience.

This particular telling is more than smart—and completely gripping. Guy Fawkes is added into the mix here; we first see him in the basement of the Parliament building as he places explosives to kill the real king, James I. Director Robert Richmond and Louis Butelli's adaptation joins worlds and jumps centuries to juxtapose Fawkes (a mesmerizing Butelli) to Macbeth (Daryl Crittenden). As director, Richmond's inventive staging with a nine-member ensemble makes for a highly physicalized plunge into the murkiest sort of darkness. It's a frightening and intimate look at the inner workings of plots, doubts, recrimination, and bloody actions. Always veiled behind a scrim and moving through—confronted by—shadows and striking visual images, cast members deliver standout performances. Darin Dahms as Duncan and Macduff is a solid presence, and Casey Brown's Malcolm has a passionate strength. As it should be in this nightmare of treachery, the women are given full weight. Lisa Carter's Lady Macbeth is crystal clear, Liz Saydah is a resonant Lady Macduff, and we can't get enough of the weird sisters (Saydah, Casey Fitzgerald, and Madeline Hamer).

So in the end, " 'twere done well," indeed. And as "A Tale Told by an Idiot" clocks in at under an hour, what's not to love about "it were done quickly"?

Presented by Psittacus Productions at Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A. July 9–25. Fri.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.

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