The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0092 Thursday, 14 February 2008
From: Hardy M. Cook <
Date: Thursday, February 14, 2008
Subject: Teller, Posner, Macbeth, Red Bank, Folger
Teller, Casting a Dark Spell
The Silent Partner in Vegas's Famed Magic Act Brings All the Sleight
Moves -- and a Love of Language! -- to a Washington Staging of 'Macbeth'
By Peter Marks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 10, 2008; R01
RED BANK, N.J. -- For a guy who gets paid plenty not to talk, Teller --
the silent half of the magic team Penn & Teller -- puts a lot of stock
in the importance of words. Or at least that's the impression he gives
when immersed in the job of directing Shakespeare.
Yes, you heard right. These days, when Teller has not been performing
with his large, loquacious partner in their standing 46-weeks-a year gig
at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, he's been hanging out on the
stage and in the rehearsal halls of a little theater company in this old
business hub close to the Jersey Shore.
The project -- the obsession-- is an illusion- and blood-filled
production of the Shakespearean tragedy "Macbeth," a production that
Teller, 59, in a sense has been working on all his life. And now -- in
directorial collaboration with Aaron Posner, the artistic head of Red
Bank's Two River Theater Company -- the professional magician is
applying his sleight-of-hand skills to a play chockablock with ghosts
and witches and other aspects of the supernatural that seem a natural
showcase for his peculiar talents.
"People who have come to see it have said to me, 'The show feels exactly
like you,' " Teller remarks over an impromptu lunch a few days into the
Red Bank run. The look on his impish features suggests a kind of
studious pleasure. "They say to me, 'It's like being inside your head.' "
The next stop for this "Macbeth," after concluding its stay in New
Jersey a week from today, is Washington; and Folger Theatre, which is a
full partner in the venture, is splitting all the costs with Two River
down the middle. (No one would say how much, although Folger officials
assert that the offering is only a bit more expensive than usual.)
A measure of the interest in Teller's participation as co-director is
that the production is garnering a level of heavyweight attention that
rarely accrues to Shakespeare at a regional theater. The Wall Street
Journal and NPR, for instance, have weighed in with feature articles,
and producers from New York have been spotted in the Two River audience.
Another measure: Folger has extended the play's run on Capitol Hill a
full week -- it begins performances Feb. 28 and now closes April 13 --
even before a single Washingtonian has seen it.
Posner, soon to complete his first season as Two River's artistic
director, is not a stranger to audiences at Folger, where he's staged a
number of Shakespeare's plays. Most notably, he directed a moving and
innovative "Measure for Measure" there in 2006, an adaptation that
firmly stamped him as a thoughtful interpreter of the Bard. Posner's
"Measure" standout, Ian Merrill Peakes, signed on as this Macbeth, and
another Folger stalwart, Kate Eastwood Norris, was cast as his Lady Macbeth.
No matter how much Elizabethan experience these artists bring to the
enterprise, though, the version has quickly come to be regarded as
Teller's "Macbeth." And although some ticket holders arrive at Two
River's handsome headquarters on Bridge Avenue imagining something like
a magic act in iambic pentameter, the fact is that Teller's wand is
waved only sparingly over the proceedings.
"There's nothing in the production," Teller explains, "that Shakespeare
doesn't place before us."
[ . . . ]
"A lot of people are going to come for the magic," says Peakes. "And
stay for the story."
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Hardy M. Cook,
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