Director Jonathan Redding helms an intimate, moody production of Shakespeare's “Scottish Play,” in which that unlucky Thane of Cawdor takes murderously poor career advice from a trio of witchy employment counselors. Although some inexperienced members of the cast have trouble wrestling the metrical challenges of Shakespeare's poetry, the show boasts a cool, omnipresent sense of dread, and contains a variety of shrewd, character-related innovations. Alexander Pawlowski portrays Macbeth as a borderline primitive brute turned psychotic tyrant: We first see him swinging a club and wearing a pelt-like tunic that puts us in mind of Bamm-Bamm from The Flintstones. As his scheming wife, Lady Macbeth, Meredith Hines radiates a disturbing viciousness that contrasts chillingly with her smarmy kitten-like first greeting with the hapless King Duncan (Jacques Freydont). When the two Big Macs get around to performing their bloodiest deeds in the dead of night, Redding thrusts the stage into murkiness, with little more than a ghost light to depict the murderous pair. Sadly, Redding's atmospheric and often cerebral approach to the play is marred by some moments of lagging pace and overly broad acting turns from some of the other performers. Ultimately, though, this vivid and commendably clear presentation of the play is ideal for audiences new to the play, or for those who just want to catch up with it once again. Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second Street, Santa Monica; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru February 14. (800) 595-4849. A Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble Production.

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Starts: Jan. 22. Continues through Feb. 14, 2009

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