Three stars
Indiana Repertory Theatre, Upperstage; Directed by Janet Allen.

In school, we read Macbeth one knockout line at a time, giving day after day to the medieval tale of ambition, superstition, and bloody paranoia. Shakespeare didn’t expect such adoring analysis. He might prefer Janet Allen’s action-packed, sparsely set Macbeth, a 90-minute modern version created as part of the Shakespeare for a New Generation theater initiative. Myron Elliott Jr.’s costuming effectively suits a mostly young cast: a dashing army in black Kevlar and combat boots, royals in black-tie and satin, and witches in shrouds that allow them to be always present but only sometimes seen. Macbeth’s kingly future is foretold as the witches dance to 70’s rock guitar. Soon Lady Macbeth is micromanaging King Duncan’s murder, dripping in blood. A couple of banquets later, she’s writhing on the floor to remove that damned spot and Macbeth is locking machetes with the only man who can beat him. There is much here to excite the average sixth grader and much in characterization left out. Soliloquies are dashed off, as if Shakespeare’s tricky language is something to be gotten through, rather than poetry to be lingered over, enlightenment to be lived by. Andrew Ahrens makes a hot Macbeth and Jennifer Johansen is icy as his lady, but the players never show us why hot and icy go together. Portraying intimacy doesn’t have to be R-rated, if you have the time for subtlety and assume your audience is worthy of it. Through Nov. 9; 635-5252.

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