It’s safe to call Bare Theatre’s current presentation Macbeth, because the play is being performed outdoors in Raleigh Little Theatre’s Louise “Scottie” Stephenson Amphitheatre and not inside a theater, where there is an old theater superstition that speaking the play’s name aloud invites disaster. (Instead, the cast and crew refer to “The Scottish Play.”) After thunderstorms washed out its first two schedule performances The Tragedy of Macbeth — which is one of William Shakespeare’s most bloody, battle-scarred plays — got to the stage on Sunday night, in the very capable hands of the Bare Theatre as part of the “Wherefore: Shakespeare in Raleigh” program.
Director Rebecca Blum stages the story of unalleviated ambition across the entire panorama at Stephenson Amphitheatre. Scenes begin from the back of the audience, down the aisles, from the wings of the stage and from both sides of the apron. And they begin with great energy; several times with the war shrieks of engaging armies. Blum’s cast is superb, and numerous — more than 40 actors accumulate in action occasionally, plus some of them play multiple roles.
Fight choreographer (and portrayer of Lady Macduff) Heather J. Strickland and assistant fight choreographer Jason Bailey construct marvelous battles, done in quasi-slow motion that manages to emphasize the brutality of battle while keeping us assured of the safety of the players. The contrast adds a level of theatricality that is a welcome contrast to the blood spattering gore that occurs in movies and TV today.
The costumes created by Laura J. Parker for Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are deep red, rich fabrics that foretell the grisly events to come. The nobility garbed in royal finery are impressive, and the soldiers and guards in helmets and body armor were fierce and realistic.
Lighting designer Adam York and sound designer John Maruca created an intensely terrorizing atmosphere to support the horrors of the story.
Wade Newhouse brings us a sympathetic Macbeth for 15 or so minutes, but one who falls under the spell his Lady in short order. Although she has to finish off Duncan for him, he has no compunctions about killing the guards who might protest their innocence and then becomes swept up in his own virulent ambition. But we still observe his underlying paranoia.
As Lady Macbeth, Benji Taylor Jones does some of the best work that we have seen her do. Her coy persuasiveness and flares of anger show the desperation and need of her character, her ruthless volatility crackles.
Seth Blum’s Banquo is a wily fellow, but not wily enough to foresee Macbeth’s plans. A likable and loyal companion, he is mostly aware of the treacheries of the world that he lives in, but he misses one step in Macbeth’s plan, although his son, Fleance (ably played by Will Cannon) manages to escape, for the nonce.
Sean A. Brosnahan’s Macduff is a swashbuckler who is heroic and principled, and his scene with Ross (Victor Rivera), when he is told of the death of his wife and daughters, is heart-wrenchingly beautiful.
John Honeycutt gives us a fine King Duncan, played as a gentleman of noble stature. (Note: This part will be played by John Paul Middlesworth on July 24 and 25 and July 30-Aug. 1 at the Forest Theatre on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.)
Bare Theatre does work that is way too good to be marred, as it has been a couple of times now, by an ill-working amplification system. Tolerant audiences overlook the interruptions, but it is nonetheless annoying and we urge Bare Theatreto seek the means to correct this flaw.
SECOND OPINION: June 17th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/macbeth/Event?oid=4317989; and June 12th Raleigh, NC ArtsNow preview by Mike Williams: http://artsnownc.com/2015/06/12/entrepreneurs-night-out-watch-shakespeares-macbeth/. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the June 25th Triangle Review review by Kurt Benrud, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2015/06/strong-acting-and-interesting-choices-make-bare-theatres-macbeth-an-engaging-production/.)
Bare Theatre presents MACBETH at 8 p.m. June 25-28 in Raleigh Little Theatre‘s Louise “Scottie” Stephenson Amphitheatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607; and 8 p.m. July 24 and 25 and July 30-Aug. 1 in the Forest Theatre, 123 S. Boundary St., Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514, on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus, presented as part of the “Wherefore: Shakespeare in Raleigh” series.
Raleigh Shows: $17 (including taxes).
Chapel Hill Shows: $18.59 (including fees).
Raleigh Shows: 919-821-3111 or “https://raleighlittletheatre.secure.force.com/.
Chapel Hill Shows: 919-322-8819 or http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1586039.
SHOW: http://baretheatre.org/macbeth-2015/, https://www.facebook.com/events/1620268288203826/ (Raleigh shows), http://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/14-15/macbeth.html (Raleigh shows), and https://www.facebook.com/events/763534887097773/ (Chapel Hill shows).
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNkSskSatLo.
PRESENTER: http://baretheatre.org/, https://www.facebook.com/BareTheatre, https://twitter.com/baretheatre, and https://www.youtube.com/user/TheBareTheatre.
Raleigh Shows: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/about/amphitheatre.html (maps/directions: and parking: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/about/parking.html).
Chapel Hill Shows: http://ncbg.unc.edu/forest-theatre/ (directions: https://www.google.com/maps/).
The Tragedy of Macbeth (c. 1599-1606 play): https://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Macbeth (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://www.folgerdigitaltexts.org/?chapter=5&play=Mac&loc=p7 (Folger Digital Texts) and http://theshakespeareproject.com/macbeth/macbeth-1-1.html (annotated text from The Shakespeare Project).
Study Guide: http://www.bard.org/macbeth-study-guide (Utah Shakespeare Festival).
William Shakespeare (English playwright and poet, 1564-1616): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare (Wikipedia).
Rebecca Blum (Raleigh, NC director and associate director of Bare Theatre): https://www.facebook.com/rebecca.blum1 (Facebook page).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.