Monday, March 12, 2007

Macbeth in Alaska: North by Northwest

The Southeastern Alaskan language Tlingit -- pronounced "klinkit" -- isn't especially full of sound and fury in the "Macbeth" of Juneau's Perseverance Theatre. But that's because in this production, which has been carefully imbued with Tlingit symmetry and ceremony by director Anita Maynard-Losh, the most bloody-minded speeches are rendered in English.

A political indictment of murderous ambition as a white man's game? That's seems like a reasonable conclusion as Jake Waid's Macbeth smoothly speaks Tlingit to his brethren, then turns to the audience and confides in English, "Stars, hide your fires; let not night light see my black and deep desires."

Yet it's not overt politics so much as two-faced secrecy that seems to be the issue in this faintly studious show, which fits beautifully inside the round Rasmuson Theater at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. (Pinpoint starlight even glows from the ceiling that undulates over the audience.) Shiftiness is hard-wired to this easy-to-follow bilingual format. Keep an eye on the convenient English surtitles of Johnny Marks's Tlingit translation for most of the cast, then get the straight hard plots and paranoia in English from the scheming couple.

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