Starting Aug. 10, New York's Pulse Ensemble Theatre screws its courage to the sticking place by presenting macBETH, a new interpretation of Shakespeare's Scottish tragedy in which the Thane of Glamis is a woman. Kittson O'Neill is the actress who will put the "Beth" in "Macbeth."
Don't think, however, by being a female, King Betsy will be denied her Lady. No, that wicked partner is present in director Alexa Kelly's staging, played by Kimberly Myles. Together, Beth and her Lady are modern gang leaders who begin their rise to bloody power by murdering gang lord "King" Duncan.
"I decided to go this route to give the play a new twist," said Kelly, Pulse's artistic director and founder. "I wanted to draw in new audiences who might think the play was a little archaic, to make it more accessible."
Kelly has wanted to have a crack at Macbeth for four years now but was searching for the opportune moment, since "everybody in New York seems to want to do it lately." She had toyed with the idea of casting an actress in the title role but wasn't sold on the notion until meeting O'Neill, whose strong audition won her the role.
As for the gang warfare aspect of the production, Kelly originally envisioned the Macbeth forces as being all female, while the Scot's opponents were male. "But that would look like the women would all be demented, and I didn't want that," she said. "The two females leading, however," with the troops a mix of men and women, "was a good image." The text of Shakespeare's tragedy remains untouched, and, according to Kelly, the same-sex coupling at the center of the production has not colored the Bard's words in any significant way. "It just is," she said of the reality of having two lady Macbeths. "That's what they are."
The production will take place in Pulse's theatre at 432 W. 42nd Street as well as out-of-doors. Performances begin Aug. 10 for an Aug. 13 opening. For information, call (212) 695-1596.
--By Robert Simonson