Sunday, April 01, 2018

Compelling “The Scottish Play” (“Mac**th”) at Great Lakes Theater

Theater people are superstitious! 

The practices that relate to the fears have various origins.  For example, “the ghost of Thespis (the first known actor in ancient Greece) is said to wreak havoc upon theaters all over the world. The ghost light tradition—leaving a single lit bulb upstage center when the theater is empty—is meant to ward off these mischievous specters.”

Know someone in the cast? If so, only give flowers after the performance.  Old school actors require their flowers after the curtain call—not before—claiming that a gift prior to the start causes a lackluster show.

Be forewarned that if you are going to go to the present staging at the Great Lakes Theater, don’t say you are going to see “Macbeth.” To ward off problems, state that you are going to see “The Scottish Play.”   Some believe that the play’s fictional incantations -- “Double, double toil and trouble…” are authentic examples of witchcraft, and therein lies the danger of speaking the title out loud. If you state the Shakespearean title, you will be required to exit the theater, spin three times, spit, and utter a Shakespearean insult (or an equally vulgar profanity).  

“Macbeth” is one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays and is recognized as one of the Western theatre’s most important tragedies.

With its tale of deception, corruption, power of unchecked ambition, a leader with a lack of moral order, lust, manipulation, and taking actions with no plan-- the story is as modern as when it was written.  

The tale starts with a storm on a Scottish moor.  Three witches chant incantations and share with Macbeth, a brave army general, that he will become King of Scotland.  Thus, is set in motion a series of actions that roll out as a tale of intrigue and darkness. 

Ambition awakened, Macbeth, who shares the prophecy with his power hungry wife, becomes obsessed with destroying anyone who might stand in his way.   He murders King Duncan and takes the throne for himself.  

But, not all is well in Scotland. Both Macbeth and his lady become wracked with guilt and paranoia as the number of murders increase and plots of revenge take hold.  They lose track of humanity and reality.  An ever increasing bloodbath ensues and dissolves into madness and ultimately death.

This is the stuff of which great Shakespearean tragedies are made.

The script is filled with epic lines and speeches that many a school child has had to memorize including: "Screw your courage to the sticking-place."  "Is this a dagger which I see before me, The handle toward my hand?"  "What's done is done."  "Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble." "Out, damned spot! out, I say!" and "Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

The Great Lakes Theater’s production, under the adept direction of Charles Fee, is superb.  Every aspect of the show:  the acting, pacing, technical creations, fight sequences, clarity of language, and story development, all ring true. 

Especially effective is the visual and story-developing creativity of the three “witches” (Laura Welsh Berg, Jodi Dominick and Meredith Lark.)

Strong performances are presented by Lynn Robert Berg as the increasingly maniacal Macbeth, Erin Partin as the obsessed Lady Macbeth, Nick Steen as Macduff, Jonathan Dyrud (Banquo) and young Jake Spencer as Fleance. 

Huzzahs to scenic designer Russell Metheny, costume designer Kim Krumm Sorenson, light designer Rick Martin, sound designer and incidental music composer Matthew Webb, and fight choreographer Ken Merckx.  

Capsule judgement:  The staging is exciting, the story line is paced to build to the forewarned conclusion, the language is easy to understand, the characterizations are well-etched, the acting is superb, the technical aspects are excellent, the fight scenes are theatrically real, the creative development of the three witches is groundbreaking.  All in all, this is a “Macbeth” to be treasured and is a must see production! 

“The Scottish Play” (“Mac**th”) runs through at the Hanna Theatre through April 15, 2018.  For tickets: 216-664-6064 or