William Shakespeare wrote Macbeth in the 1600s, but the enduring themes of ambition, evil and remorse resonate on stage this weekend and next at Pleasant Valley Park.
Produced by the Trilogy Repertory Company and directed by Hank Barre, Macbeth takes viewers back in time to a land of kings, thanes and witches. The play is set in Scotland where men wear kilts and witches prophesize the future. It is a dark play, a tragedy and one of Shakespeare's best known dramatic works.
Sitting on the lawn on a balmy summer evening in front of the Pleasant Valley Amphitheater, one can imagine what it must have been like centuries ago when many theatre productions were held outside with an eager audience seated on ground. Residents dined on picnic dinners and chatted with one another in anticipation of the opening scene.
"Fair is foul and foul is fair." Three witches commence their scheming about the fate of Macbeth. Will they control his destiny or will he? Is the promise of kingship so tempting that Macbeth will forsake his morals and embark on a journey so filled with murder that eventually it becomes madness?
Shakespeare's dialogue is complex and there are many characters to follow: Lady Macbeth who dares her husband to seek the throne at whatever the cost, Duncan, who will die at their hands, and Banquo, who witnesses the witches' prophecies and is told his sons will be kings. There is also Macduff, a fellow thane who becomes suspicious of Macbeth and the three witches "so wicked and wild in their attire."
Last night's cast did a commendable job portraying the long list of characters and personalities. As described in a previous Patch article, many of the actors are veteran Shakespearean actors. They more than capably handled their hefty roles.
Joe Penczak played an intense, ambitious and then equally tormented Macbeth. Christie Leigh Carver, as Lady Macbeth, gave a convincing performance in her soliloquy as she devolved into insanity with "out out, damn spot," and the three witches were eerily ephemeral, overseeing all that went on as the tragedy played through (Samantha Ferrara, Katherine Cartusciello and Samantha Simone).
With all the plotting and scheming audience members must watch and listen carefully. It is helpful to have a brief understanding of the plot ahead of time to truly enjoy the performance.
A faux stone castle set creates a proper backdrop on stage. The overhead banner, bearing the clan name changes to let viewers know the venue had changed from one castle (e.g. Duncan) to another (e.g. Macbeth).
To their credit, the male actors were totally comfortable in their kilts and tall socks. Brandishing swords at times, they went into hand to hand combat when necessary.
Withstanding the test of time, viewers will recognize many familiar quotes such as "nothing is but what is not," and "double double toil and trouble." A musical comedy it is not, but a good drama sometimes can make us think and Macbeth is a nice way to round out your theatre experience this summer.
"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
--Macbeth, Act V, scene v
Curtain is 8:00 p.m., free admission, sponsored by the Bernards Township Department of Parks & Recreation. Continued performances July 31, August 5-7.