By COLIN DABKOWSKI

The Buffalo News

Published:July 23, 2010, 12:00 AM

 

A great actor can make you believe just about anything.

Take Katie White, for instance. She plays the role of Macduff, the Scottish lord whose family was savagely murdered at the behest of the bloodthirsty title character in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”

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MACBETH

STAR RATING: 3 and a half stars out of 4

WHAT: Shakespeare in Delaware Park

WHEN: 7:30 p. m. Tuesdays through Sundays through Aug. 15

WHERE: Shakespeare Hill, Delaware Park

TICKETS: Free

INFO: 856-4533, www.shakespeareindelawarepark.org

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After hearing the news of her family’s slaughter, a stunned and disbelieving White falls to the floor of the Shakespeare in Delaware Park stage and breaks down into whimpers. When she reaches her hands out toward the doctor delivering the news and says, “All my pretty ones? Did you say all?” You can see the look of animal confusion and kindling rage in her eyes all the way from the top of the hill.

At that moment, it doesn’t matter one iota that White is a woman playing a character plainly meant to be male. Like her fellow actresses in this all-female production of the tragedy that opened Thursday night, all that matters is that you believe her.

In planning the current season, the company’s founder, Saul Elkin, gazed out across the broad landscape of acting talent in Western New York, saw a profusion of women who too seldom get shots at juicy Shakespearean roles and cast a huge swath for them. That smart and simple stroke not only results in a taut and entrancing production, but also provides a fine troupe of female actors a rare chance to show off.

From the macabre ballet of witches that opens the show to the bloody final scenes, director Eileen Dugan strikes and sustains a tone of magnetic darkness, a pervading sense of impending evil that never flags. And though not every member of the large cast manages to inhabit her character as effectively as White, they each deliver in their own ways on the show’s dark, compelling promise.

As Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, Kate Konigisor and Josie DiVincenzo ably play out the fateful power relationship of conflicted puppet and unhinged manipulator. Konigisor bounds from confidence to self-doubt and back again in a way that suggests bipolar disorder — her delivery of Shakespeare’s famed “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” soliloquy is particularly excellent — while DiVincenzo revels in the opportunity to play the fatal mischief-maker with permanent blood on her hands.

Standout performances also come from a self-assured Lisa Vitrano as Banquo and Hanna Lipkind as Malcolm. As the bawdy, hung-over porter who waxes poetic on dangers of drink, Jenna Winnett adds a much-needed note of hammy comic relief in a show where horror is always just around the corner.

Tom Makar’s otherworldly sound design starts the show off with a jolt and, like Dugan’s direction, sustains a constant tension and deep foreboding through the show.

Christopher Cavanagh’s lights, Lynne Koscielniak and Dyan O’Connell’s spare sets and Dixon Reynolds’ costumes complete this darkly compelling production.