A Tale Told by an Idiot

Vaulting ambition that threatens to destroy a country, heinous acts done in the dead of night in the name of a higher cause, and the labyrinthian politics of marriage where no hands remain clean are the stuff of Shakespeare's "Macbeth." And by distilling his text and characters then throwing in a marvelous—almost contemporary—twist, Psittacus Productions makes us realize why this is a tale that will always demand an audience.

This particular telling is more than smart—and completely gripping. Guy Fawkes is added into the mix here; we first see him in the basement of the Parliament building as he places explosives to kill the real king, James I. Director Robert Richmond and Louis Butelli's adaptation joins worlds and jumps centuries to juxtapose Fawkes (a mesmerizing Butelli) to Macbeth (Daryl Crittenden). As director, Richmond's inventive staging with a nine-member ensemble makes for a highly physicalized plunge into the murkiest sort of darkness. It's a frightening and intimate look at the inner workings of plots, doubts, recrimination, and bloody actions. Always veiled behind a scrim and moving through—confronted by—shadows and striking visual images, cast members deliver standout performances. Darin Dahms as Duncan and Macduff is a solid presence, and Casey Brown's Malcolm has a passionate strength. As it should be in this nightmare of treachery, the women are given full weight. Lisa Carter's Lady Macbeth is crystal clear, Liz Saydah is a resonant Lady Macduff, and we can't get enough of the weird sisters (Saydah, Casey Fitzgerald, and Madeline Hamer).

So in the end, " 'twere done well," indeed. And as "A Tale Told by an Idiot" clocks in at under an hour, what's not to love about "it were done quickly"?

Presented by Psittacus Productions at Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A. July 9–25. Fri.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. www.psittacusproductions.org.