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Review: Macbeth: As the Dust Settles (TheMASSIVE)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: Macbeth: As the Dust Settles (TheMASSIVE)   
   As the Dust Settles

Written by William Shakespeare  
Directed by Kyle Vincent Terry
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map)
thru Nov 11  |  tickets: $15-$20   |  more info 



A unique visual treat that sometimes loses focus


Review: Macbeth: As the Dust Settles (TheMASSIVE)


TheMASSIVE presents


Macbeth: As the Dust Settles

Review by Keith Glab

In an incredible coincidence, Macbeth: As the Dust Settles is one of two Scottish stories adapted to a central United States setting running concurrently in Lakeview (Book and Lyrics Theatricals’ Trainspotting USA runs through December 2 next door at Theatre Wit). TheMASSIVE artistic director Kyle Vincent Terry has moved the Scottish Play to the Dust Bowl period of the 1930s, or more specifically: Scott City, Kansas, 1939.

Review: Macbeth: As the Dust Settles (TheMASSIVE)
The production opens with one of the Witches crooning with a guitar. She is joined by five others in a stylized Native American ceremonial dance. These witches are also Ghost Dancers – Native American women who seek to reunite the living with spirits and rape white men to avenge their fallen mates. Hecate (Raquel Adorno), the goddess of witchcraft, belts out gospel music with an incredible voice from time to time. Like most productions of Macbeth, an extended fight sequence follows, but this one features fisticuffs and a revolver rather than swordplay.

It is a good 10-15 minutes into the performance before the actual text of Macbeth begins. Once it does, the words are initially difficult to understand. Rather than speak onstage, the witches are given voiceovers from a loudspeaker that isn’t quite loud enough and lacks the clarity of lines delivered from the stage. Their rape of a character leads to Act I Scene II, and three giant projection screens visible from each side of the thrust are used to show the continued haunting of this rape as well as indicate the prairie setting. Although visually and aurally evocative, the projections and sound distract from and obscure the action taking place onstage.

When Macbeth speaks to the Witches/Ghost Dancers/Fates in the next scene, his words are echoed back at him via offstage recordings over loudspeaker. The echoes often are heard slightly before Shawn Wilson utters them onstage, an appropriate effect to show how the Witches know what Macbeth is going to say before he even says it. Unfortunately, the overlap again makes the words difficult to make out.

Once we get to experience Wilson’s Macbeth unimpeded, his portrayal is exceptional. Like most of the cast, he has a strong grasp of the language and an ability to make the text his own. With a stage presence even larger than his hulking physique, Wilson commands his scenes with ease, but is also able to hit notes of subtlety and vulnerability when appropriate.

Review: Macbeth: As the Dust Settles (TheMASSIVE)

Review: Macbeth: As the Dust Settles (TheMASSIVE)
Review: Macbeth: As the Dust Settles (TheMASSIVE)

Aila Peck is able to give Lady Macbeth similar authority despite her diminutive size, and does so without overcompensating or neglecting the character’s feminine side. Peck does sometimes fall into the trap of speeding through some of her lines; a characteristic shared by several of her castmates. When she takes her time, the language is gorgeous, and her interactions with Macbeth provide some of the show’s best moments. Another favorite is Banquo’s ghost (Niall McGinty) seducing Lady Macbeth and mimicking Macbeth’s speech during the banquet scene.

The character of Macduff as played by Michael Jay Bullaro does not work very well. Bullaro uses an exaggerated American accent – a raspy, Kurt Russell twang – that can’t ever work with iambic pentameter and stands out all the more since he is the only actor making that choice. His performance hits the same sullen note throughout, to the point where he doesn’t sound different when he learns of his family’s murder than he does earlier in the play.

The entire cast brings great energy to their roles, though. This couples with the all the stylized imagery – including dust and grease used instead of blood – to make this production a visual treat that doesn’t lose the audience’s attention over two-and-a-half hours. The projections often compliment the action, such as in Macbeth’s dagger soliloquy. (The welcome sensory stimulation aside, I’m not real clear on what the purpose of changing the setting of the play is.)

Kudos to TheMASSIVE for providing a fresh new take on a story that has been retold thousands of times over the centuries. Of course, Macbeth’s story, theme, and language are the primary reasons that it has been produced so often. Whenever Macbeth: As the Dust Settles remembers that and works in tandem with Shakepeare’s text, the production works beautifully. In the instances that this production makes the text secondary to the other elements and themes unique to this production, it all gets a little muddled.


Rating: ★★½



Macbeth: As the Dust Settles continues through November 11th at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 2:30. Tickets are $15-$20, and are available by phone (773-327-5252) or online through More information here(Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes, includes an intermission)

Eight Kings still by Anna Henson and Rasean Davonte Thomas

Photos/stills by Dane Lewandowski, Anna Hansen and Davonte Thomas




Shawn Wilson (Macbeth); Aila Peck (Lady Macbeth); Alaina Sharp (Witch 5, Witch Voiceover); Alex Levin (Ross, Ghost Dancer); Aurora Adachi-Winter (Angus); Chris Necker (Murderer, Rebel, Duncan’s Aide); Christian Castro (Seyton), David Russell (Lennox, Ghost Dancer); Grace Mulkern (Witch 1), Jaci Kay (Gentlewoman), Jennifer Becker (Witch 3), Jenny Maceika (Witch 7), Kate Puckett (Witch 2), Katie Burrows (Witch 6), Kyle Vincent Terry (Duncan, Apparition Voiceover), Luke Grimes (Donalbain, Ghost Dancer), Mary-Kate Arnold (Lady Macduff), Michael Jay Bullaro (Macduff), Michael Allen Harris (Malcolm), Moira Begale (understudy), Niall McGinty (Banquo), Raquel Adorno (Hecate), Rob Fenton (Siward), Ryan Stajmiger (Fleance), Shannon Welling (Witch Voiceover)

behind the scenes

Kyle Vincent Terry (director, adaptor, choreographer, props, costumes, producer); Dane Lewandowski (tech director, producer); Anthony Urias (producer); Brian Clouthier (composer); Tony Bruno (sound design); Jennie Becker (dance captain); Anna Henson, Rasean Davonte Johnson (projections); Nicholas Matonich (lighting); Brandon Thompson (asst. director); Corrie Besse (stage manager); Ryan Nash (production manager); Jocelyn Johnson (fabricator); Shannon Welling (costume coordinator); Cynthia Bottomly (costume intern); Dane Lewandowski, Anna Hansen and Davonte Thomas (photos/stills)

Dust Bowl still by Anna Henson and Rasean Davonte Thomas

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