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TEDIOUS FIRST ACT, POOR SOUND HURT `MACBETH'

A novice to Shakespeare probably wouldn't want to start a study of the Bard's works with this production of "Macbeth."

While the Castle Theater is a wonderful setting for this well-known tragedy, and some of the scenes are magnificently carried off, too much of it cannot be heard and is impossible to follow without already knowing how the plot unfolds. Nothing is miked, so projection is absolutely critical and unfortunately missing in places.The opening act is tedious and probably discouraging to the ardent fan who wants to revisit a favorite passage or two.

The scenes and action following the intermission are much better paced and lively. There's more cohesion.

Macbeth lives wickedly and pays the terrible toll evil exacts, as is Lady Macbeth.

Murders are committed and the prices paid.

Witches stir their cauldrons and swordsmen duel for their lives.

It's almost worth staying through the first act, which could be significantly improved if the audience could hear Lady Macbeth's lines - crucial to understanding Macbeth's decisions from there on.

The shrouded set for this show is simplistically stark but provides an interesting place for every kind of place from a king's throne to a banquet tableaux to a rocky hillside.

Costumes are kept to the period and graceful with the single problem appearing to be Lady Macbeth's gown, either slipping off her shoulders or threatening to trip her as she ascends and descends long flights of stairs.

Swordplay is expertly choreographed and exciting to watch.

There are nice humorous touches woven into the speeches.

Rick Macy portrays an appropriately distressed and distrustful Macbeth, unwilling to concede that taking a life is as simple to dismiss as the washing of one's hands and too suspicious of everyone as he rules to relax.

Eric Robertson, portraying Macduff, renders one of the best scenes when he learns of the deaths of his wife and son.

Jed Wells, playing the son of Macduff, gives one of the nicest performances, genuine and clearly focused.

Bruce W. Beaman as the porter and the old man is another breath of fresh air in a relatively small part.

On the whole, the cast is well-versed and comfortable with the old English. They provide a worthy visit to Macbeth's season, but no one member moves the audience to great emotion.

The problem here is that it's probably too deep for the beginner and too shallow for the die-hard fan.