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Theater: Many faces of Macbeth

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One line in the text held his in­terest throughout: "It was a line spoken by Donalbain: 'There's daggers in men's smiles,' " Goold says. "What he's talking about is doublespeak – which has always been the

product of tyranny."

In Washington this spring, the Folger Shakespeare Theatre presented a production of "Macbeth" codirected by Aaron Posner and Teller (of the magician duo Penn and Teller). Their staging also updates the Bard's text to make a point – albeit not an explicit political one.

Mr. Posner and Teller tell the tale of Macbeth in a straightforward showman's manner, as if the audience hadn't bought a ticket for Elizabethan drama, but rather for an amusement park haunted house.

"Shakespeare wrote a thrill ride, we didn't add that," says Teller in a phone interview from Las Vegas. Rather than focus on connections with contemporary times, Teller and Posner edited the script to play up the swiftness of the action and sharpen the character of McDuff.

Teller, who devised stage magic to heighten the super­natural elements of the play, had long wanted to stage "Macbeth," in part because he saw too many productions that were weighed down with kilts, bad accents, and gloom.

"The play as written is joyful and full of humor," says Teller, who compares it to Hitchcock's "Psy­cho": "All the way through, both contain horrifying giggles." Teller adds that the conventions of horror films helped shape this production: "the phrase 'Supernatural Horror Thriller' became our aesthetic lighthouse," he says. Shakespeare's witches became a trio of Freddy Krueger- or Jason-like monsters. Buckets of fake blood gushed on stage.

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