In “Macbeth,” Shakespeare’s Scotland is a wild and untamed place; a barbaric land set in the distant past. There is magic there. Three witches (scary sirens played by Erin Whitcomb, Lily Davis, and Cassidy Adkins) prophesize that Macbeth (David Whalen) will one day rule the land. The Thane of Glamis is an ambitious man, but not a patient one.
Whilst walking from the battlefield of a bloody civil war, two generals, Macbeth and Banquo (Justin R. G. Holcomb), come upon the witches. The foul creatures make their bloody predictions, and the wheels in Macbeth’s mind begin to turn. He writes to his wife, Lady Macbeth (Gayle Pazerski), about the prophecies. The wheels in her mind turn even faster. Spinning so fast the wheels are in danger of coming off.
Lady Macbeth suggests that her hubby kill the current king, Duncan (John Henry Steelman), and take his crown. He hesitates, but his reluctance doesn’t last long. When this politician flip flops, blood spills by the bucket. Soon after Duncan’s death, Macbeth is seeing enemies everywhere. He starts offing enemies and friends alike. Best buddy Banquo is one of the first to go.
At a banquet for the newly crowned king, Macbeth’s dead buddy Banquo takes his place at the table. Of course, no one else can see the deceased Thane of Lochaber but our antihero. Macbeth’s guests start to believe their new king is mad. They’re not wrong. The spiral downward from war hero to king to bloody despot is a quick and painful one.
He seeks out the witches, who are now joined by their mistress of the dark, Hecate (Karen Baum), and he is told yet another prophecy. He can’t be killed by any man borne of woman. He doesn’t bother to read the fine print of their poisonous fortune cookie. McDuff (Patrick Jordan) was a cesarean.
This play has something for everyone, just in time for Halloween. There are witches, ghosts and sword fights, as well as poetic monologues that wax philosophical about the nature of fate and free will and the consequences of our actions. The play posits that only the innocent sleep well at night. Macbeth commits so many heinous acts, it’s a shame they didn’t have melatonin pills back then.
“Macbeth” is one of Shakespeare’s shortest plays, but it’s got some of the best soliloquies. You almost can’t stop moving your mouth along to the words, in some deranged form of Shakespearean Karaoke. “Is this a dagger I see before me?” “Out, out, damn spot.” “We are but poor players…”
There are a few great reasons to see this show. Michael Thomas Essad’s sparse but creepy set. The beautiful and barbaric costumes of costume designer Michael Montgomery, and spooky sounds from sound designer Elizabeth Atkinson (a crack of lightning at the play’s opening made more than one audience member leap from their seat).
But go for the talent. Whalen does a fine job as the ambitious despot, but Pazerski is brilliant as his extremely flawed wife, Lady Macbeth. Holcomb’s Banquo is charismatic. He is even a commanding presence in his silent scenes as a ghost. There is a scene with the Porter (Martin Giles) that offers up the plays brief venture into lewd comedy, and it was excellent. There are many good players who strut and fret on this stage, but they are too many to mention. We hope to see them in future productions, tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.
The witches are creepy and cool, spectacularly played by Whitcomb, Davis and Adkins. Director Alan Stanford enhances their roles a bit by adding some overlapping dialogue and a haunting minstrel tune. When the witches supreme leader, the goddess Hecate, rises from their bubbling brew, things get even more insane, mostly due a fantastic performance of Karen Baum. If there were more scenery she would have chewed right through it. Note: Hecate was a goddess of three faces, and Baum plays three different personalities for each face. She is both frightening and funny as she writhes around on stage. Her short minutes on stage enliven the entire production.
PICT Classic Theatre’s production of “Macbeth” is wicked fun. There is magic here.