[Photo by Mark Valenzuela]
BY BRANDON LAFVING FRINGE CORRESPONDENT Fringe shows are, by design, experimental and/or playful, they occupy a space where anything can, and usually does, happen — well, the good ones do, anyway. With this in mind, I walked into the Arts Bank Theater Friday night with the same caution I would exert if I was attending Shamu’s matinee performance at Sea World. Which is to say that under no circumstances would I willingly sit in the ‘splash’ section. Then I saw the stage: A majestic bed and a throne entangled in a dark and twisted web of fibers that vibed chaotic and harrowing all at once. I simply could not resist the lure of the water’s edge and I sat in the third row, ready and willing to get drenched or come what may. To be quite frank, my preconceived notions went deeper than Sea World analogies. I happen to love Shakespeare, and so the very premise of Lady M, which was to recreate The Bard of Avon’s original play from the standpoint of Lady Macbeth, had in fact turned me off from the get go — much like when I heard that publishing house Orion had abridged Moby Dick, and I almost retched in the nearest garbage can. In short, I was ready to hate this play. And many of my prejudices against Shakespeare productions that take liberties with the original text in the name of creative license were once again borne out. The glorious monologues I had memorized at sweet 16 were, indeed, hideously spliced, abridged, and sprinkled into the new, contemporary language of the script. There were also moments when the presentation became so aggressive that I felt uncomfortable in my seat. But somehow it worked. Big time. For 75 minutes I was completely engrossed in a performance that stretched the limits of time, space and reason. The witches, in this version, are expanded to include ten performing artists whose synchronized movements bring the backdrop alive. Catherine K. Slusar [pictured, above], in the titular role, seemed to anticipate her audience’s every response, acting with such a balance of power and nuance that ‘rapture’ is the only word to describe the audience experience. I think I cycled through the seven stages of grief — shock and denial, then pain and fear followed by anger and bargaining — at least 10 times, laughing uproariously at every step along the way. Assuming that a reasonable sampling of the general public are similarly inclined, Lady M promises to be a hit for Adrienne Mackey’s new Swim Pony Performing Arts troupe.