Directing a production of a play that “everybody is familiar with,” is a real challenge. Rebecca Blum takes the challenge in Bare Theatre’s current production of Macbeth; and, with the help of a dedicated and talented cast and crew, emerges victorious.
With all-around acting as strong as what we saw in this production, it is hard to single out individual performances, but here goes:
Seth Blum’s Banquo is especially endearing. Watch for his smiles and chuckles and the honesty of his body-language.
Benji Taylor Jones shows a Lady Macbeth of incredible depth. Pay special attention to her “conjuring” scene and (of course) to the “mad scene.”
Sean Brosnahan’s Macduff shines in the Macduff/Malcolm scene. I felt every emotion along with him.
Wade Newhouse makes excellent choices in his delivery of the familiar soliloquies, sometimes reinforcing conventional interpretations, sometimes shedding new light into the depths of the character.
Also worthy of kudos: Lucinda Gainey, Kasey Reynolds Schedler, and Arin Dickson as the witches and Heather J. Strickland (as Lady Macduff), John Honeycutt (as Duncan), Jason Tyne-Zimmerman (as The Porter), and Eric Devitt (as The Doctor).
The costuming (designed by Laura J. Parker) is impeccable.
Set designer Ami Kirk Jones remains true to Bare Theatre’s minimalist mode, yet manages to add to add such accoutrements as tables and bed chambers when needed.
The true strength of this production, however, is in choices made by director Rebecca Blum:
The witches: Remember that this play was penned in an era when “ordinary women” were arrested and executed for being witches. Rebecca Blum places them squarely within the community. She also gives Lady Macbeth a conjuring book from which to draw her invocation of the “spirits / That tend on mortal thoughts.” Witchcraft is not foreign to these people; we are even less surprised that Macbeth would buy in to the “supernatural soliciting” of the “secret, black, and midnight hags.”
Ghosts: While the Folio text only mentions “The Ghost of Banquo,” it is obvious that the ghosts of Duncan and Lady Macduff and her children haunt the Macbeths. Their entrance at key moments is another strength.
“Macbeth Jr.”: Some might find him a distraction, but adding this character raises the stakes. The more the Macbeths have, the more they stand to lose.
Other elements that make the show more interesting:
Multiple acting areas and points of entrance and exit and acting-out of action that is described in dialogue.
Because of last week’s weather problems, the Sunday-night performance that I attended was the twice-delayed opening night; additionally, the company had been deprived of its final dress rehearsal.
Technical problems? Yes — microphones failed now and then, sometimes at crucial points in the dialogue. On occasion, background action such as stage combat could have been conducted at a lower volume (or even in silence) while crucial narration was delivered.
Lighting: It is difficult to create focused acting areas with lighting on the longest day of the year (June 21st).
I suspect that these minor glitches will be ironed out by next weekend.
Five down, thirty-two to go! Bare Theatre has now produced five of the bard’s plays in the Raleigh Little Theatre’s Louise “Scottie” Stephenson Amphitheatre; I look forward to the rest of them.
Stone benches are hard, and these summer nights are hot, so bring lawn chairs, bring ice-cold water and, above all, bring yourself. This production of yet another Shakespeare classic is not to be missed!
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/.
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).
EDITOR’S NOTE: Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.