MACBETH at Marin Shakes has a great Act 2

King Duncan (Keith Stevenson-left) appoints Macbeth as Thane of Cowdor (William Elsman-center) as Malcom (Daniel Petzold-2nd from l) and Banquo (Darren Bridgett) observe in the opening scene of Macbeth at Marin Shakespeare Company. Photo by Eric Chazankin

MACBETH: By William Shakespeare, directed by Lesley Schisgall Currier, Marin Shakespeare Company, Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, 1475 Grant Avenue, San Rafael, CA. 415-499-4485 or July 15 to August 14, 2011

MACBETH at Marin Shakes has a great Act 2

Concept productions and adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays are numerous and each mounting elicits expectations and trepidations. After the witnessing the opening scene of Lesley Currier’s staging of Macbeth, trepidation came to the fore. She has added an unnecessary opening scene of the baptism and eventual death of Macbeth’s infant son to emphasize the fact he has no heirs to succeed him to the throne thus giving him justification for some of the dastardly deeds that follow. Further, the costumes are bizarre and initially distracting creating confusion as to time and place of the action. However some excellent acting and inventive staging diminish the trepidations creating a mostly successful opening for this their 21st season marred only by a chilly fog and wind to envelope the amphitheater.

Rather than confining the action to a specific time or place, there seems to be an emphasis on the ‘tone’ of the play with the action often occurring in a dream-like state morphing into nightmares compounding the horror of gruesome murders that abound. The key may be found late in act V. A doctor (in this version a Nurse) and servant observe Lady Macbeth sleepwalking and sleep-talking about Duncan's death. Macbeth asks “Canst thou minister to a mind diseased.” The rhetorical answer is a resounding, no. Ambition and greed lead to madness that will not be assuaged with remorse. Not only is Macbeth a historical play, it is clinical study of descent into madness that director Currier fortifies with apparitions to surround much of the action.

Some of the world’s foremost actors have performed in this famous tragedy since it was written probably between the years 1603-1607. Marin Shakespeare’s cast for this staging is definitely up to the challenge. William Elsman and wife Alexandra Matthew star as the Macbeths, supported by Keith Stevenson as King Duncan, Scott Coopwood as Macduff, Darren Bridgett as Banquo, David Moore as Lennox and Daniel Petzold as Malcolm. The tall imposing Elsman plays Macbeth as a despicable powerful Machiavellian egomaniac. He controls the stage with dynamism revealing believable inner turmoil handling Shakespeare’s dialog with authority. In the early scenes he gives a one-dimensional portrayal that blossom in the second act. The famous lines:

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage. . .”

is a gem as Elsman quietly moves to the stage apron, sits and gives the words brilliant meaning.

Alexandra Matthew’s Lady Macbeth is shrouded in distracting histrionics although she projects the fierce bond of love for her husband needed to contrast her descent into madness. Keith Stevenson is a powerful King Duncan. Scott Coopwood as Macduff and Daniel Petzold as Malcolm are absolutely brilliant in their confrontation in the second act. Artistic director Robert Currier has the plum role of the Porter with his “Knock, knock..” speech that he partially ad libs bringing laughter to the appreciative audience.

Now about the witches (the weird sisters) ably performed by Sylvia Burboeck, Madeline Harris and Lynn Soffer, You will never see a more “alive” bubbling caldron that is sheer genius on the part of director Lesley Currier. Special accolades go to fight director John Ficarra who has choreographed some of the best fight scenes you may see. All in all, this Macbeth is an auspicious start to Marin Shakespeare’ new season. Running time about 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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