By Hephzibah Dutt
Dear fans of Shakespeare and classical works in performance, you are in for a treat.
The theatrical team of Hubbard and Hubbard bring a (highly) reduced-cast, 60-minute version of The Scottish Play to the KC Fringe: it is cleverly adapted, creatively staged and, best of all, dynamically spoken and embodied by wife-husband duo,April and Robert Hubbard.
KC Fringe Festival is the premiere stage for MacDuo, which was crafted by April Hubbard last summer. Rather than the Wyrd Sisters, the play begins with a momentary flash-forward to Lady Macbeth murmuring, “…Yet do I fear thy nature; it is too full o’the milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way.” One actor speaks her fear and ambition, while the other echoes the same words from upstage.
And thus, Ms. Hubbard marks her adaptation as a the distillation of the bard’s play to the relationship between Macbeth and his wife, their individual struggles, desires, paranoias, and eventual unraveling. Remaining true to the source text, Ms. Hubbard even maintains the integrity of iambic pentameter amidst the heavy edits that simmer this play down to an hour.
In a timely year to consider the effects of political power in the hands of single man (or woman), the two-person venture into Macbeth dredges to the surface themes of entitlement, family-loyalties, and the damaging effects reckless ambition can have on community.
In some ways the MacDuo script could be considered a “Top Ten Best Monologues from Macbeth,” but that would not do justice to the carefully synchronized and creative staging Hubbard and Hubbard employ to render a whole host of characters, a plethora of entrances and exits, and a multitude of locales. Simple prop and costume devices are used to designate close to 20 different characters in the play. Mr. Hubbard’s bawdy rendering and the drunken porter and Ms. Hubbard’s solo portrayal of the three witches (yes, all three) are respectively hilarious, and impressively chilling. Rowan Sullivan’s sound design is eerie and effective, even in its (seeming) simplicity.
If you are not familiar with the source text but enjoy classical literature in performance (or even want to witness the creative staging of well-done, reduced-cast script), I would urge you to hop on Wikipedia, read the plot synopsis of Macbeth, and go see this show. For, tracking along with the particulars of who is who in the comings and goings of messengers, and princes, thanes and stewards is perhaps the one challenge this presented to the viewer. If I were to get a MacDuo-ver (get it? get it?), I would urge the performers to strategize further acting and staging tools that would guide their audience through transitions in scenes, and to demarcate between characters. Bodies speak, even when we don’t want them to; the sensuality of the Macbeth-Lady Macbeth scenes are so heightened that the actors occasionally carry it into snippets between other characters— with unwontedly humorous or interestingly queering results.
The bedrock of the show, however, remains-- Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.
I want to play up a pun about dynamic duos and dynamic acting…but will refrain. Simply put, Robert and April Hubbard exude sex and insanity as the bard’s most notorious power couple. From lustful tenderness to rage, chilling deviousness to terrifying madness, both Hubbards pull out all stops here at the Fringe. And Shakespeare is no foreign language in their mouths—indeed, their facility and ease with the text, uncovers layers of meaning even to the listening ear. With unrestrained physicalities and vocals, strong acting is a more than a highlight of this production—it is a pleasure to behold.