The Summer of Shakespeare continues as Houston Theatre Company brings the Bard's Macbeth to the stage at University of St. Thomas's Jones Hall.
Often called the Scottish Play, the work has been reimagined as a gangster drama more than once, in 1991 and 2006 film adaptations. Now, Houston stage director Joseph "Chepe" Lockett is trying his hand at something similar, transplanting the story from ye olde Scotland to 1870s New York City and its Irish-American mobsters, à la Gangs of New York.
"What we wanted to do was really bring out the violent nature of the story, but also be careful that the setting doesn't disrupt all the assumptions already in place," says Lockett, who is directing the play for the first time after performing as an actor in four previous productions. "I've always had trouble with the idea of modernizing Shakespeare too much. Like, in Romeo + Juliet (the modernized 1996 version)—why didn't she just buy a plane ticket? I wanted to update it, but keep it early enough that people aren't mowing each other down with machine guns."
And speaking of death and destruction onstage: "It will have blood," promises Lockett. "They say, blood will have blood." Pipes, clubs and straight razors will replace the traditional knives and swords. But beyond the action, it's the timeless story the director wants to tell.
"Macbeth is happy being a right-hand man, but he wants the kingship badly. So, when he sees the opportunity to be king and takes it, he just isn't ready." The character swings wildly between anger and despair, eventually falling into a state of madness. "It's really about the follies of ambition, and choosing between the shorter and more immediate path or the longer, yet rewarding path."
Macbeth opens this Friday, July 10, and runs through Sunday, July 19. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. $10–14. University of St. Thomas, 3800 Montrose Blvd. 713-827-8209. macbethatust.wordpress.com