A Moody, Magnificent Macbeth

Banquo and Macbeth. Photo courtesy of Door Shakespeare.

Banquo and Macbeth. Photo courtesy of Door Shakespeare.

The first rousing words of Door Shakespeare‘s Macbeth, performed in the garden at Bjorklunden are “‘Tis Time. ‘Tis Time. ‘Tis Time” repeated over and over by the company that briefly assembles before the action begins. ‘Tis time, indeed. This season’s production of Macbeth gives a juicy, action-packed, and intelligent reading of the classic tragedy centered around an overambitious Scottish general turned king and his deviously scheming wife. As Lady Macbeth, Angela Iannone is superb, and it would have been easy for her to steal the show. Fortunately, she is matched in skill by her counterpart, Reese Madigan, a complex, fragile and susceptible Macbeth, who brings universality and humanity to the role. Together, the two Macbeths illuminated the pitfalls of ambition, and their sensuality together also suggests the dangers of passionate love. Also delightful to watch are the dashing Danny Junod as Banquo and David Folsom, who brings clarity and sensitivity to the role of MacDuff. The scene where Macduff discovers the death of his children, “What, all my pretty ones?” is one of the most poignant of the show.

Door Shakespeare, located on the grounds of Bjorklunden in Baileys Harbor, has always been a magical place. But this season is more magical than ever, thanks to the dynamic leadership of new executive director Amy Ludwigsen and her creative team of dynamic young Shakespeareans from around the country. The stage has been reoriented, with the audience invited closer to the action, and the center of the stage an enormous, stately Oak tree, used to great effect in this production. The actors, natural setting and atmospheric music will transport you to the ghostly countryside of Scotland. Also, this could be your only chance to ever see a Macbeth where the “trees” of Birnham Wood, who move to signal Macbeth’s demise, actually emerge from a real forest.

The night I saw the show, the sky was overcast and threatened rain. High clouds moved quickly and from time to time revealed a brilliant half-moon.  Strong breezes rippled through the trees, the sound adding beautiful effect to the surprisingly effective musical design provided by fiddler and percussionist Dan Poppen. Dusk fell during the first act, and by the beginning of the second act (which also begins Macbeth’s undoing), the grounds became dark, illuminated by the stage lighting and the canopy of lights that ring the audience.

The Witches. Photo courtesy of Door Shakespeare.

The Witches. Photo courtesy of Door Shakespeare.

In addition to strong leads and clear direction, the supporting cast brings added texture to the production.  The three Weird Sisters, wonderfully costumed by Kelly Schaefer, are played to strange and wraithlike effect by Carley Cornelius, Casey Wortmann and Kate Zehr. And director Jason Economus brings a bit of comic relief through his portrayal of the porter, amusing the audience with his easily understood and hilarious monologue on the perils of mixing drink and amorous activity.

Although the show itself left me near speechless with wonder, perhaps the most wonderful thing of all was watching the audience become more and more engaged in the show. Before the play and during intermission, I watched a group of young boys and girls playing at swordfighting, using a bunch of padded play swords that are obviously provided for that purpose. As I was leaving the garden, walking along the magically lit path leading pack towards my car, a young girl, about 10 years old jumped out in front of her brother, lifted her sword, and called, in her best Shakespearean diction, “Raise your rapier! I challenge thee to a duel!” If Amy Ludwigsen and her merry band of Shakespeareans want to inspire a love of the bard, I daresay they’ve done it.

Macbeth plays Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 8 pm, through August 17. Love’s Labour’s Lost plays Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays through August 16. Click here for tickets.

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