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The Boston Globe

Theater & art

Stage Review

This ‘Macbeth’ is a magical mystery tour

MEDFORD — Walk into the Chevalier Theatre to see the Actors’ Shakespeare Project production of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and you might think you’ve come to the wrong place. Jenna McFarland-Lord’s set looks like Miss Havisham’s dressing room from Dickens’s “Great Expectations,” or perhaps Downton Abbey after it’s been converted into a hospital. Gray tattered curtains stretch from stage floor to ceiling. Heaped up in one corner are flowered carpets and upholstered chairs and an overturned oval table with a broken leg. Heaped up in another corner are a trunk, a mirror, part of an iron bedstead, and a little white rocking horse. A standing lamp with fringed shade, a huge antique radio, and a set of French doors occupy center stage. A rolling staircase can be deployed left, front, or center; a stained-glass window at the back suggests Tiffany or Lafarge. It’s a show all by itself.

So is director Paula Plum’s concept. Set in the World War I era, or a little after, this “Macbeth” opens with an entrance up the aisle, three nuns dressed like Daughters of Charity processing to the “Agnus Dei” from the Requiem Mass. Once they reach the stage, they remove their cornettes and, to much thunder and lightning, become the three Witches. And they hover throughout the play, as much sisters of mercy as weird sisters, brandishing poisoned entrails one moment, ushering a gurney with a dead body on it through the French doors the next. They’re not the only specters, either. When Macbeth and Macduff reach the final showdown, the ghost of Macduff’s pigtailed daughter (son in Shakespeare’s original) enters and distracts Macbeth with a look, enabling her father to dispatch him.

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