The worst traffic in history, created by road construction and events, plagued a five-block radius within downtown Baltimore this past Saturday, causing even the cast of the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s production of Macbeth to be late and delaying the show by 15 minutes. I was none-too-pleased, covering three blocks in 40 minutes and never making it to a certain parking garage. So, it’s a good thing the bloody Macbeth made my spine tingle and hair stand on end.
Macbeth is one of William Shakespeare’s most well-known plays—second, perhaps, only to a certain pair of star-crossed lovers—but it has been years since I have read or seen it. I only hoped, as the lights dimmed, that I’d be capable of understanding everything. From the old English iambic pentameter to the moral of a story built around a man who, described early on as “a peerless kinsman,” quenches his thirst for promised political power with blood, blood, and more blood.
Shortly after a great battle, Macbeth (Jeff Keogh), along with his colleague and friend Banquo (Jose Guzman), stumbles upon the three Weird Sisters (Kathryn Elizabeth Kelly, Tamieka Chavis, and Greta Boeringer) who predict the men’s future. Macbeth will be the Thane of Cawdor and king hereafter. Banquo will father many future Kings of Scotland.
Macbeth lets his wife, the Lady Macbeth (Lesley Malin), in on what he’s heard, and she masterminds a plot to kill the King of Scotland, Duncan (Scott Alan Small), while he slumbers at their house, hastening Macbeth’s rise. All goes as planned. Except, one murder is never enough when power is at stake, and soon both Macbeth and his wife perpetuate more and more death before succumbing to it themselves. Lady Macbeth, driven mad, commits suicide while Macbeth loses his head to the Thane of Fife, Macduff (Vince Eisenson), who avenges both Scotland and his murdered family.
Macbeth is a study of humanity at its worst and its best. Macbeth the man has a conscience, recognizing Duncan’s generosity towards him even as he stabs him, yet turns in the second act into a crazed, self-righteous usurper who believes in his own supposed invincibility as told by the Weird Sisters, who declare that “no man of woman born” shall take him down. Keogh is Macbeth—a man too good to have done such bad deeds—confidently capturing his duality in a dynamic performance. He’s wonderful to watch beside Malin’s Lady Macbeth, especially as they roll around on the ground, making love, where they scheme. Aren’t we the most wicked when in bed with another?
But, when Macduff falls to his knees, asking “All my pretty ones?” in disbelief upon hearing of his family’s murder at the hands of Macbeth, Eisenson becomes the good heart beating for all of us. He stands out in a show stocked with wonderful performances, including Guzman’s Banquo, who, as a ghost, sits at dinner party looking as if at a lost for words while silently torturing Macbeth. He’s a truly sad figure, and I pitied him.
I was delighted being reminded how quotable, and funny, this fabulous scribe often is. Drink? The porter Seyton (Michael Salconi) says it “provides the desire, but affects the performance.” Wink. Wink. And of course, it’s always lovely to hear the delightfully cadenced “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.” But, its pieces of Macbeth’s final mini-soliloquy, I remembered, that have proliferated in pop culture.
The sound and fury. The sound and fury. How sweet and dark a phrase, summing the tragedy of a moral man blackened by greed and desire. Sometimes love, admiration, respect, and wealth are not enough.
I relished the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s version of Macbeth—a creepy, suspenseful tragedy fit for All Hallow’s Eve—because it illuminated things I’d never noticed hiding deep in the text—like how Macbeth and Banquo are at odds the instant the Weird Sisters disclose their first vision—and I owe that to the performances and to Paul Mason Barnes’ direction.
Without greatness in both, I would have been lost. And being lost during a Shakespeare production is akin to being stuck in traffic on a Saturday afternoon in Baltimore. Be assured, this production of Macbeth is worth the drive.
Macbeth by William Shakespeare; Directed by Paul Mason Barnes. Featuring Jeff Keogh, Lesley Malin, Scott Alan Small, Gerrad Alex Taylor, Imani Turner, Jose Guzman, Addison Helm, Vince Eisenson, Molly Moores, Drew Sharpe, Mia Boydston, Kathryn Elizabeth Kelly, Tamieka Chavis, Greta Boeringer, Gregory Burgess, Daniel Flint, Lyle Blake Smythers, and Michael Salconi. Artistic and Production Staff: Daniel O’Brien, Technical Director, Lighting Designer, and Scenic Designer; Kristina Lambdin, Costume Designer; Patrick Kilpatrick, Production Manager; and Hannah Fogler, Stage Manager; Jess Shoemaker, Assistant to the Director; Jessica Rassp and Chester Stacy, Scene Painters; Janet Stephens, Hair/Wig/Makeup Designer; Mindy Braden, Props Designer and Wardrobe Crew; Jessica Rassp and Samantha Bloom, Stitchers; Gerrad Alex Taylor, Fight Captain; Neil McFadden, Sound Designer; Rusty Wandall, Original Soundscape; Kate Forton, Assistant Stage Manager; Michael Lonegro, Light Board Operator; Dylan Resnick, Sound Board Operator; Sara Small, Volunteer Coordinator; and Pamela Forton, Mary Hoffman Pohlig, Tyler C. Gordon, and Donna Burke, House Managers. Produced by Chesapeake Shakespeare Company . Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale.