Theatre in the Park
Through Feb. 15

With careers now best measured in decades, Lynda Clark and Ira David Wood III have each fully earned their status among the first rank of this region’s actors. When the two have shared the same stage in recent years, they’ve conjured up memorable interpretations of dysfunctional partners, in a 2005 run of The Lion in Winter, Wood’s own Eros and Illinois in 2006 and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in 2007. Our anticipation was understandable upon receiving word that the pair would helm a production of Macbeth this season at Theatre in the Park.

Clark and Wood present us here with a royal couple that’s a lot cagier in some ways than those we’ve seen in recent runs. Where other productions have emphasized the dark-starred Thane of Cawdor’s assessments (and, ultimately, his miscalculations) when it comes to advisors, aides and those who stand between him and the throne, here most of the sizing up goes on between husband and wife. The distrusting pair are clearly forced to re-evaluate each other anew with every twist of Shakespeare’s plota series of appraisals that continues for most of the play.

But these actors’ achievements are limited in this production by a support cast hard-pressed to keep up with them. Robert Marden, standing in for an ailing John T. “Jack” Hall in the role of Duncan, gave a tasty Russian twist to the monarch, Macbeth’s first benefactor and victim. On Saturday night, Jason Weeks’ otherwise steely reading of Ross became enmired in the fatal dramatic pauses of an Act II scene with Michael Murray.

But several of the younger actors on stage experienced more difficulty. Though both struck a number of theatrical poses, Ira David Wood IV’s and James Miller’s respective work in the roles of Malcolm and Macduff, in particular, seemed dramatically underfunded.

The cuts and adaptations Wood has made as director here also give some pause. Some productions, particularly those lacking a deep enough bench, cut the comic relief of the Porter’s scene in Act II or Lady Macduff’s murder in Act IV. This production does both. But why was it necessary to noticeably abridge the “weyard” sisters’ famous incantation scene?

Stephen J. Larson’s set design places this Macbeth in a blighted, cold industrial wasteland similar to the one Temple Theater explored in last month’s Hamlet. Like that show, this production also uses projected video of actors, though technical glitches in blank screen projections and sound and visual quality marred its deployment the night we saw it.

Even so, a number of striking images lingermost associated with the opening of two portentous doors at the center of the back wall. A mid-show satanic ritual results in a visual moment seemingly lifted from The Exorcist, while the combination of fog, backlights and sound reference The Terminatorand music videographyin other places.