Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fair foul, foul fair . . . .

Michael Basile in rehearsal as Macbeth

Fair is foul and foul is fair . . . nothing is what it seems.  No one says outright what he or she is talking about.  The world is turned upside-down, and every person involved in the story is impelled or impeded by an underlying fear, something that belies every word that is said.

This is the world of William Shakespeare's Macbeth, as portrayed in the ASC's production, opening next weekend (16 March) at the West Side Theater. As the title character, Michael Basile is one of seven actors playing all the roles, and he plays Macbeth as a tormented poet paralyzed by his sensibilities but driven to murderous acts by "o'er vaulting ambition."  His ideas and imagination imprison the Thane of Cawdor, who is, according to Michael Basile, "stymied, frozen. . . by his deeds and can only break free from his state of inertia by acting violently, savagely."

Says Basile, "The man has a poet's ambition in the body and ambitious mind of a trained killer."

Though most of the other actors will portray multiple roles, Basile will only embody Macbeth.  Colette Rice, the production's director, has chosen a ritual circle-storytelling style for her staging to emphasize the centricity of the story.  Her rendering of the play is dedicated to the flow of the characters and their impalement on the crux of the story, which, according to Rice, is the about the coexistence of good and evil in everyone. 

Rice believes that the main message of Macbeth is that "we must all acknowledge that we are capable of great evil and must recognize what it is in each of us to do our best -and our worst! - and shed a light on our own motives for choosing righteousness or ill.” 

Worthy Macbeth, as Michael Basile portrays him, is deeply aware of and inexorably enslaved by his ability to foresee the abiding consequences of his actions.  Then he deeply regrets that once he has begun, he can never see the consequences to completion because there is no end.  "He wants to make the future the present and then have the present complete, but it never is.  He laments that 'it it were done when t'is done' but sees more and more clearly that there is no end. . . . he must kill and kill and kill again."  Worst for Macbeth, he sees the omnipresent and universal struggle between good and evil in himself defeating all his goodness.  "With each killing, a little more of whatever is noble within him is sacrificed."

Macbeth is consumed by his fury, and he becomes the embodiment of his own destructive passions.   He dies violently, entirely unsatisfied. 

Interestingly, the play's message, according to Michael Basile, is about inner peace, about telling the truth, being honest.  "I want the audience to believe that what they see and hear relates to their lives even though what the characters do -- their actions -- are far more hyperbolic than the actions of most humans."

                                                       The Actor Michael Basile

Which is how the actor lives his own life.  A teacher of English Literature and Composition at New Jersey City University, Basile has been a member of the ASC since 2007, and he has been on its Board of Directors since 2004.  He is proud to be part of the troupe, which he characterizes as a "hard working, generous cast, crew and administration," where it is the material in the play that takes precedence over egos.  He would like to see the ASC enabled "to produce more shows and give more of its fine people work."

Though he has loved interacting with Shakespearean text since he saw Zeferelli's Romeo and Juliet as a kid, he has other dreams. Basile is the antithesis of evil, but he is ambitious, especially creatively.  If he were not here acting, he might be home with his wife gardening or cooking.  He is at work on a collection of poems he has written about his family's life with their autistic son and nurtures a dream of belonging to the Audubon Society, being a birdwatcher; he'd also like to finally learn Spanish and take up the cello, which he had to abandon years ago. 

Clearly, one can only do what one can do.  Good deeds, too, can be unfinishable.

1 comment:

Peter Galman said...

Great theater, I should spell it Theater with a capital T (and maybe spell it a la Francaise?) begins with great ideas. That you have been able to encapsulate them here just made my job of selling the show to groups, especially religious organizations that deal with good v. evil every moment, so much easier. I'll link this story to my e blasts to them. Highly enlightening, you two.