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St. John's Church is a fitting setting for New Century's admirable 'Macbett'


The New Century Theater, currently housed in the vast space of St. John's Church at 27th and St. Paul streets, is presenting a very entertaining version of "Macbett," Eugene Ionesco's broadly funny parody of Shakespeare's tragedy, "Macbeth."

Skillfully directed by Mark Redfield, Ionesco's work displays fierce humor that also has a serious purpose -- to show how a dedicated soldier is induced and seduced into destroying a sadistic, villainous king only to become a far worse tyrant himself.

The play is filled with amusing melodramatic asides and modern idioms, which the talented cast delivers well. To tell this tale of bloody ambition and the corruptive effects of power, there is much physical action and delightful buffoonery. However Redfield, at times, has laid too heavy a directorial hand on his actors in his attempt to achieve a balance of broad comedy and biting satire.

In Ionesco's wild account, Macbett and Banco (Macbeth and Banquo) are devoted friends and loyal generals to the Archduke Duncan. There is no Lady Macbett but there is a scheming witch in the form of Lady Duncan who entices Macbett into killing her autocratic husband.

As written by Ionesco, she is bad, the personification of evil. There is no tortured nightmare sleep or troubled conscience.

After meeting with the two grotesque witches in the forest who predict Macbett will be king, Macbett and Banco, in a very funny scene a la Laurel and Hardy, talk themselves into assassinating Duncan aided by his ever eager wife.

Haunted by the "ghosts" of Banco, whom he has slain out ojealous rivalry, and Duncan, Macbett is finally done in by "man not of woman born" (the issue of a union between Banco and a gazelle).

In an ironic twist, the cruel repetitious pattern of ambitious power continues to the next generation. We are not moved by Ionesco's shallow characters but we get the author's lurid message.

St. John's, with its high rafters, lends itself well to the castle setting. Redfield has used the church balcony with its stained glass window to fine effect.

Ionesco's Macbett, played with delightful, honest simplicity by Brian Chetelat, is an unbelievably credulous soul until he meets the duplicitous Lady Duncan.

Banco, on the other hand, enacted with superb eloquence and incisive satirical style by Tony Tsendeas, is more like the original Macbeth as he comically broods, painfully analyzes and wildly ponders the nature of his own grisly deeds. Tsendeas also turns in a chilling performance as the final heir to the bloodied throne.

Donna Sherman is a slick Lady Duncan, grotesque in her witch's rags and ultra-glamorous in her slinky, sexy gowns. But this actress needs to achieve richer transitions and diabolical subtlety in her interpretation of this power crazed creature.

Jimi Kinstle is dandy as the shallow, neurotic, avaricious Archduke Duncan, strutting about like a peacock. Mark Steiner and Derek Neal are excellent as Candor and Glamiss who first plot to overthrow Duncan but go down in horrendous defeat.

Robin Hogel is amusingly repugnant in the role of the second witch.

Eric Supensky created the many interesting masks and original music was composed by David Bannasch.

The overall pace of this "Macbett" has to pick up and the numerous slapstick bits should be set up for bigger and faster execution. But this is still an admirable production of a very challenging work. The play runs through June 29.

A disappointing version of "Cabaret," the Kander and Ebmusical depicting the decadence rampant in pre-World War II Germany, is on stage in the Catonsville Community College Theater through Saturday. As directed by John B. Wynne, the important, pivotal role of the Master of Ceremonies at the Kit Kat Club has been reduced to a background character.

Wynne has incorporated too much distracting action in his showMost of the lead roles are miscast with obviously inexperienced people and the single piano accompaniment (nobly played by Dave Richardson) is not enough musical support for the memorable songs.

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