Petaluma Shakespeare’s Macbeth: Artistry, Talent, Direction, Dedication

To those who may wonder how a cast of five can pull off a great production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, here is your four-part answer:  artistry, talent, direction, dedication.

All of those necessary ingredients come into play in the minimalist staging on the lawn of Foundry Park in Petaluma.  The characters are visually defined by the simplest of costume changes, done from a coatrack right before your eyes.  Only Macbeth himself retains his kilt and overshirt throughout—the others change hats, or skirts, veils, or sashes over a simple grey-and-black leotard.  It is the acting, after all, that makes a playwright’s characters into individual people with ambitions and desires, torments and despairs.

And, oh, what memorable performances!  I look to Lady Macbeth as the key character in any performance of the Scottish play, how she weaves her spell over her husband and induces him to prove his manhood in the execution of a deed he would never have done on his own.  And in so doing, she traps them both into a descent into a personal hell from which, as they come to recognize, neither will escape.  In this, Rosie Frater’s Lady Macbeth was at once captivating and horrifying.  “Out, damned spot!”

Skylar Bird as Macbeth is her perfect foil, the honorable warrior seduced by his own wife into the most dreadful of treacheries, to slay his own king and benefactor beneath his own roof.  His character deepens throughout, culminating in a memorable delivery of the climactic soliloquy:  “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to dayto the last syllable of recorded time.”  Such eloquent words, so well spoken.

Props and costumes, actors backstage waiting to come on and changing costume when they do—all are in view on the Foundry Park lawn, but with John Langdon’s memorable direction that hardly merits mention.  Sarah Bird’s well-chosen background music of eerily haunting melodies helps to keep the mood dark in the face of a bright afternoon sun.

The dedication of all involved warrants special notice.  The shifting roles demand a rare talent for memorizing so many more lines, and maintaining the personification of each.  Especially noteworthy is the fact that all of this is on display for three performances only.  Barely enough time for the show to evolve into its own rhythm, no chance for critical notice since the entire theatrical run is three performances only, all in one weekend.

So let this notice, late though it may be for 2019’s Macbeth, be an advance notice for Petaluma Shakespeare’s 2020 season.  Don’t let that one slip away.

(Petaluma Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” was performed in Petaluma at Phoenix Theater October 10-12 and at Foundry Wharf October 13, 2019.)

Petaluma Shakespeare Website:  http://petalumashakespeare.org/about-us

Review by David Hirzel