By the pricking of my thumbs…
by Michael Dresdner
|Seyton (Nicholas Anderson), Donnalbain (Kyle Yoder), Duncan (Dennis Worrell) , Macduff (Rodman Bolek) Photos by Dennis K Photography|
Tacoma Little Theatre chose a very solid and enjoyable production of Macbeth, directed by pug Bujeaud, to close out its 99th season. An outstanding cast working on a minimalist set by Erin Manza Chanfrau did just what should be done with Shakespeare; allow the words and the acting to work their magic without undue distraction from costumes, surroundings, or props.
I’m aware that everyone already knows the story, but let me frame it in just a couple of lines that will both recap the tale’s arc and provide an explanation of why it is still so relevant today.
Macbeth, spurred on by both his nagging wife’s ambition and a prophecy from three witches that he’ll be king of Scotland, murders the king and usurps the throne. Of course, it does not end there. His fear spurs him to kill any other potential threats, including his close friend and ally Banquo. Another pair of prophecies by the witches convince him he’s invincible, but their words contain trickery making them technically true, but easily misconstrued by the egomaniacal Macbeth.
In other words, it’s a cautionary tale about how a disastrous combination of ego, paranoia, and unbridled political ambition can wreak havoc on a country.
As I said, the cast was excellent, but since it’s such a large cast, allow me to call out just a few of the leads.
|Macbeth (Dylan Twiner) & Lady Macbeth (Kathryn Philbrook)|
Macbeth (Dylan Twiner) and Lady Macbeth (Kathryn Philbrook), two roles that demand intense passion and emotion, were both superbly crafted by actors comanding a deep and convincing span of emotions. Philbrook’s “out damned spot” scene in particular was one of the best I’ve seen, replete with some sneaky prop assistance.
|Malcolm (Jacob Tice) & Macduff (Rodman Bolek)|
The same can be said for Macduff (Rodman Bolek) and Malcolm (Jacob Tice), who also met their emotionally damanding scenes with admirable range and rage. For that matter, Jonathan Hart also deserves a call-out for fine nugget of acting in a very minor role.
|Ross (Maddox Pratt), Angus (Sean Raybell), Banquo (Jessica Weaver) & Macbeth (Dylan Twiner)|
There’s some gender shuffling, rather to be expected with this director. One of the weird sisters (witches) is male (Ethan Bujeaud,) but it absolutely worked. Even more to the point, Banquo (Jessica Weaver) is female. Weaver was masterful at clarifying the unusual Shakespearean phrases, but what really made this work was how well she captured the nature and character of Banquo, something vastly more important than his/her gender.
As I said, there were no weak spots in the cast. They all deserve the bows they took.
|Witch (Kaylie Hussey), Witch (Ethan Bujeaud), Hecate (Laurice Roberts) & Witch (Jackie V.C.)|
This was all played out on an industrial dark set filled with pipes and concrete stained with grime and blood. It was meant, I suppose, to evoke a distopian present, where swords shine when modern weaponry is no longer reliable. If you are a fan of minimalist sets, and I am, you’ll find they work beautifully with a production whose acting and content easily stand on their own. As for the change in venue, I felt it neither aided nor distracted from this excellent presentation.
Bujeaud used the set in some clever ways. For instance, the behind-the-scrim, foot-stomping march of Birnam Wood coming to Dunsinane was particularly effective and even a bit intimidating.
Lighting (Niclas Olson) worked well with the set to create both color and mood changes, amplified by Dylan Twiner’s sound design. Costumes (Michele Graves) were interesting, but somewhat uneven, with a smattering of kilts and tartans sharing billing with drab, utilitarian shirts and trousers, no doubt to convey that this is no longer the old Scotland. Even the witches wore inconsistent garb, as opposed to the more traditional “clearly we’re all the same and thoroughly eerie” outfits we normally see.
Freddy Tse did yeoman service as the fight choreographer in a play heavily laden with finely executed and often quite complex fight scenes. And as is often the case with a play this complex, stage manager Nena Curley deserves her own accolades.
All in all, this was a strong and enjoyable presentation to wrap up the season, and a good segue to a 100th year that many of us TLT fans are anticipating with great pleasure. If you are a Shakespeare fan, or even just a fan of Macbeth, this is an ideal opportunity to see it done brilliantly by some of the South Sound’s best.
June 1 to 17, 2018
Tacoma Little Theatre