What do actors Peter O’Toole, Kelsey Grammer, Derek Jacobi and Rufus Sewell— to name but a few —all have in common? They’ve taken valiant stabs at Shakespeare’s Warrior King of Scotland and by most critical accounts, failed. The curse of the Scottish play claims yet another victim in Greasy Joan and Co.’s revival of “Macbeth,” but at least actor Dana Wall in the title role can take comfort in knowing he’s in good company. In describing Wall’s Macbeth I’d throw out adjectives such as “sensitive,” “intellectual,” “calculated” and “painfully cognizant.” I would not readily volunteer “spooked,” “insane” or “Machiavellian.” Thus, his is a respectable interpretation but it only gives us half of a Macbeth, far more believable at conveying the character’s metaphysical musings and anguished introspections (the “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” soliloquy is excellent) than Macbeth’s villainy, ambition or capacity for evil that might leave him susceptible to supernatural forces or pangs of psychotic delusion. Indeed, here’s a Macbeth as politico or businessman, in modern dress no less, more likely to be haunted by the possibility of a sex scandal or tax audit than the appearance of witches, daggers or ghosts. Director Julieanne Ehre’s setting for the production—a stark and clinical asylum that could be seen as a physical metaphor for the “Macbeth as insane” school of thought—doesn’t help and works against everything Wall seems to be transmitting. But at least he’s transmitting something intelligible, being one of the few actors in the company—along with Nick Mikula’s superbly spoken Malcolm and Samuel Taylor’s affecting Banquo—who doesn’t mangle the rhythms of his verse and is able to achieve some musicality by combining chest and head tones and alternating between sotto voce and forceful line readings without sacrificing crispness of elocution or urgency. Most of the remaining cast delivered poorly spoken and sloppy verse. All in all, a valiant stab of a production but one that fails to leave any noticeable mark. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
At the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, (312)902-1500. This production is now closed.