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Dances Patrelle – Macbeth

                                  By R. Pikser

There are two types of theater.  One is bare-bones and can be very exciting: Only the performers, the text, and the imagination.  The other type of theater involves as many elements as possible:  the text, or choreography, the performance, the lighting, the sets, the costumes.  Francis Patrelle’s production of Macbeth gave us an hour and 50 minutes of the latter sort of theater.  Rita B. Watson’s lavish costumes, with material flowing everywhere, still allowed the movement to be seen; David Grill’s lighting turned hanging cloths into eerie Stonehenge-like pillars, then into three-dimensional palace columns; Gillian Bradshaw-Smith’s huge dolmen, dominating upstage center, seemed the progenitor of the pillars and was worshipped by everyone aspiring to power, as it cast its curses upon all.

Mr. Patrelle has changed the story that we know from Shakespeare, having the witches and their apprentices foment the evil and carry out most of the murders.  The idea is interesting, but Mr. Patrelle did not quite make the connection between the Macbeths’ lust for power, resulting in their murder of King Duncan, and the witches as the source, or at least the guides, of that lust.  Further, because the witches, rather than Macbeth, kill everyone except Duncan, the audience does not understand why the Macbeths should later be so upset when the ghosts of all the dead appear to them.

                                                                                   Photos by Rosalie O’Connor

The choreography of the piece was fairly simple, but well-rehearsed and cleanly executed.  Mr. Patrelle’s use of unison movement lends power to the steps.  The lifts, though, were exceptional.  They also were cleanly performed, were always interesting and often unusual.  Though the dancers move cleanly, they are not quite aware of how to use the classical movements to communicate the drama required by the ballet.  One of the loveliest sections of the ballet was the farewell duet between Macduff (Maximillien Baud) and Lady Macduff (Therese Wendler).  The Macduffs are not caught up in the lust for the crown and both the dancers are lyrical dancers, which works well for them and for the ballet.  They performed their love duet with pleasure and tenderness.  But the thrust of the ballet is power and the men generally did not find a way to make their choreography reflect their characters’ needs, especially the will to power.  Mr. Patrelle gave the witches prime importance and he gave the idea of the crown equal importance.  It appeared and reappeared.  Almost everyone lusted after it, longed for it, tried it on.  Yet the dancers, apart from Lady Macbeth never infused their movement with that lust. 

Mary Beth Hansohn’s Lady Macbeth was the standout of the evening.  Her choreography, like that of everyone else, was basically classical, but she managed to initiate each movement from a place of passion, of love, of hate, of distraction, or of whatever was dramatically necessary at the moment.  The classical movements looked new and thrilling again.  They showed the inner soul of the character.  This is what dramatic dance can do. 

Dances Patrelle, Macbeth

September 15th-18th 2016

The Kaye Playhouse

East 68th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues

New York, NY

Tickets $45 general admission, senior and student discounts at door