After almost 20 years, Door Shakespeare has begun a new era under the vision of Executive Director Amy J. Ludwigsen. In addition to two powerful new productions — William Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost and Macbeth — the familiar Björklunden site now features recently-installed permanent stage lighting and an exquisite, finished perennial garden fenced in stone. The serene garden is the perfect spot to celebrate with wine before a summer performance.
On a mild July night, when the audience could almost see the actors’ breath, Macbeth unfolded on a grass stage. Directed by Artistic Associate Jason Economus, the Bard’s timeless drama explores how an ambitious man’s deadly deed escalates into unfortunate events for Scotland. Throughout, the play resonates with the incantations of three witches in the surrounding, lush woods, and charming the mood of this production. This is a primal, supernatural interpretation of the tragedy that mesmerizes the audience with chants, drawing the audience ever closer during a colder-than-average summer season.
The company’s mystical ambiance primarily derives from these three “weird women,” as Macbeth calls them; in fact, they inhabit the scenes as if they are directing Macbeth’s fate. Dressed in unique, macabre attire, actors Carley Cornelius, Casey Wortmann and Kate Zehr huddle and stand on tree stumps placed at three points around the stage area with a presence that appears to invoke the action.
The witches also act as guests at Macbeth’s dinner after his coronation, when he is visited by Duncan’s ghost. They then release the spirits of the murdered characters by encouraging the “dead” to rise and walk toward their exits off-stage. Intercessions by the witches, and their direct intersection with the play’s action, makes for a supernatural feeling as the night grows black and shadows longer on the grassy clearing.
Reese Madigan’s Macbeth ably flashes his titanic ambition and murderous behavior before finally unleashing bloody remorse. His actions are often violent affection for a very fierce Lady Macbeth, the powerful Angela Iannone. The couple presents the audience with intriguing twists on the pair’s relationship, more physically expressive as the King and Queen of Scotland, despite their age difference, intensifying the primal energy in this production of Macbeth.
Stage techniques greatly enhance Macbeth’s magical qualities. In the background, Dan Poppen plays autoharp, drums, bells and violin — music that beautifully underscores the tribalism lurking in Macbeth’s “blasted heath,” as the playbill names the site in Scotland. Lighting Director Jason Fassl uses the glow of candles and flaming torches in the forest setting, while overhead lighting forewarns the appearance of Duncan’s ghost in several scenes.
To complete the realistic man-to-man battles necessary for Macbeth, resin objects called Kendall sticks are used for Duncan’s cane, soldiers’ rifles and dueling swords. The sticks are also used in the exciting final minutes between Macbeth and Macduff, the loyal-to-country David Folsum, and when Banquo, played by the solid Danny Junod, is overthrown by another murder to assure Macbeth’s crown.
Even the costumes contribute to these themes. Classic wool kilts, fur trimmed robes, and rich, red velvet gowns for Lady Macbeth, designed by Kelly Schaefer, add elegance to this minimalist, yet powerful, Macbeth. The story may be well known, but each new production reinforces the belief that in any community, regardless of size, one person’s actions can shake and topple the structure, whether for permanent destruction or great restoration; choices made by a singular person matter dearly to shared history.
Shakespeare reinforces this wise lesson, a lesson that unfortunately bears repeating. Our numerous communities, regions and countries all impact each other through unimagined connections, resulting in a vast range of consequences. If you’ve ever wondered why Macbeth is still such a strong common reference point in our savage, highly political world, see this finely acted Door Shakespeare production for the reason why.
Door Shakespeare performs Love’s Labour’s Lost and Macbeth on alternating nights through August 17. Free family nights for selected performances offer educational programming before the evening begins. Wine Nights on August 10th and August 14th are served in the garden before the performance, catered by Ellison Bay’s Wickman House. Door Shakespeare’s annual fundraiser, A Night In Navarre, will be held at Woodwalk Gallery on August 4th beginning at 6 pm. For further info or tickets, visit doorshakespeare.com or call 920.839.1500.