For years the classics have been set in different eras, and to a certain degree they have worked because the writing is brilliant enough to have sustained innovations. Here the bard's scripting of Scottish conflict for the power of the throne is plopped into the American Wild, Wild West of the 1860s. Yahhhh-hoo!
A. Jeffrey Schoenberg's wonderful costuming is the only thing that makes the large leap onto the interesting, planked, multileveled, blank stage (designed by Meghan Rogers and lighted by Cricket Sloat), representing the rough and wild West. The large cast of mostly men look the part of gunpackin' cowboys — with hats and spurs and Winchesters at the ready. However, with trained iambic pentameter spoken with only an occasional hint of a drawl and twang, the costumes just look like dress up. And all the men look alike, making it difficult to know who is who and who is saying what.
After about 20 minutes, the entire attempt to westernize the endeavor disappears. We are listening to the performers and watching their faces and body language and take an instinctive, geographic leap back into Wild, Wild-enough Europe.
The players seem well-trained in the genre; extra kudos goes to Adrian Sparks as Macbeth. Lisa Glass, with a wonderfully throaty delivery, gives Lady Macbeth an underlying harshness ready to reveal itself. Bjørn Johnson is outstanding as Macduff, becoming the only major good guy in the piece.
As a rendering of Shakespeare's script, director Arne Zaslove has done fine work; however, as a piece of Americana lore, he missed the mark by quite a bit.
Presented by and at the Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m. Feb. 23-Apr. 7. (323) 882-6912. www.openfist.org.