2016 FringeNYC Review: ‘Till Birnam Wood’

Philadelphia’s John Schultz brings an immersive sensory experience to FringeNYC with Till Birnam Wood, an original adaptation of Macbeth. Already a hit in the 2014 and 2015 Philly Fringe Festivals, the one-hour condensed version of the Scottish play of blind ambition and guilt, foreboding, fate, and death is presented in an intense fast-paced hour, with an inspired new twist: the audience is blindfolded, thereby compelling us to focus fully on the “sound and fury” that is life, to envision the story’s disturbing acts, settings, characters, and supernatural apparitions in our mind’s eye, to feel the unsettling power of nature and human nature, and to revel in the exquisite beauty of the Bard’s language, free from all visual distractions.

'Till Birnam Wood' promo image:" Blood will have blood."
‘Till Birnam Wood’ promo image:” Blood will have blood.”

The formidable ensemble of eight is not confined to a traditional stage, but moves freely around the space and the audience, surrounding and enveloping us in the dark tale. The “weird sisters” (played with sinister fervor by Angela Smith, Jenna Kuerzi, and Katherine Perry) hiss, shriek, and whisper hair-raising spells and spine-chilling prognostications into our ears, as we feel the winds raging around us, are shaken by the live and pre-recorded sounds of battles and storms, and inhale the aromas of the banquet and forest, and the soap Lady Macbeth (the excellent Jennifer Summerfield) uses to wash out the iconic “damned spot.”

'Till Birnam Wood' promo image for FringeNYC.
‘Till Birnam Wood’ promo image for FringeNYC.

Kevin Patrick McGuire (Macbeth), Adam R. Deremer (Duncan and Macduff), Kevin Rodden (Malcolm and the Doctor), and John Schultz (Banquo and Seyton) all deliver the appropriate emotions, psychology, and stations of their characters with skill, comprehension, and passion, clearly distinguishing between them sight unseen, through changes in their voices, speech patterns, and moods. Schultz’s direction is acute, his design effective, and his concept impactful, as he and his cast demolish the fourth wall and thrust us into the midst of the tumultuous action. Till Birnam Wood will equip you to appreciate the genius that is Shakespeare and to “see” Macbeth like you never have before.

Running Time: Approximately 60 minutes, with no intermission.

Till Birnam Wood plays through Sunday, August 21, 2016, performing at DROM – 85 Avenue A, in New York City. Purchase tickets online.