I really want to love Shakespeare. As a theatre-lover, I feel some pressure to embrace the roots of the genre and so I’m trying to understand Greek tragedy, Arthur Miller, and others in addition to the Bard’s works. I’ve committed to attend all of Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s productions this year – even the ones that I would have avoided in the past – because I really am trying to broaden my appreciation for the classics. But it is a process.
I read this play in high school and I remember enjoying the story, once English teacher Ms.Gwen Cody explained it to us. It has everything you could want in a story: witches, deadly ambition, supernatural psychosis, and violent, unabashed gore. This production features all of the above, as well as some gender bending with the casting of the lead (and other roles, too). Laura McCarthy plays “Macbeth,” a man who believes he will become the King of Scotland after it was foretold by a trio of witches. He will stop at nothing to fulfill his destiny, even if it means murdering his most loyal friends. Eventually, overcome with guilt, Macbeth has a psychotic break and ends up dead himself. And don’t forget the important relationship between Macbeth and his wife. She is equally as ambitious, maybe more so, yet she is also mentally disturbed and finds herself dead, too.
Still I didn’t love this show. For one, the language is still difficult to understand and there’s a lot of words in this play. But also, the set was a drab, grey concrete slab. The costumes were equally dreary; bleak grays and browns, while intricately detailed, did not arouse my senses. Don’t get me wrong – I admire the purposeful apocalyptic style the designers presented. I just personally didn’t care for it. Also, while I admire the bold choice in casting a female in the lead, I’m not sure it was the best choice. Laura McCarthy did a very good job with an impossible task.
Also good was Spencer House as “King Duncan,” bringing some much needed levity to his scenes. And Andrew Iannaci as “The Porter” nearly stole the show with his comedic chops. A.C. Horton, also playing a man, did a nice job as “Banquo,” truly bringing the creepy as the character returned post-mortem. The best performances of the show, though, belonged to Nathan Wallace and Bartley Booz. Wallace has a quiet intensity, and as “Macduff,” he patiently awaited his chance for vengeance. I always think Booz is a star. There’s something undefinable about his performance and as in other shows, he has such presence on stage that you can’t take your eyes off of him.
The best parts of CCM’s Macbeth were the technical aspects. The lighting was recognized by the panelists of the League of Cincinnati Theatres and rightfully so. On a relatively blank canvas, the lighting created time and place and mood, with some really cool effects. Kevin Seamancik’s sound design was very good; using reverb to highlight the supernatural elements differentiated things well. The use of the trapdoor lifts were exciting and the heads of the murder victims were realistic enough to cause the girl sitting next to my friend and I to gasp.
I’m going to continue to try to understand and appreciate Shakespeare’s work. I do always appreciate the efforts of the fine students and faculty at UC-CCM. And despite not being enamored with it, I greatly admire and appreciate the work that went into this piece of classic theatre.
Next, UC-CCM Drama will present SPEECH AND DEBATE in the Studio Family Theatre opening November 6th and later THE HEIDI CHRONICLES in February. Tickets and more information can be found here.