In his excellent book, How to Do Shakespeare, Adrian Noble says “the golden rule is to make the audience listen.”
Noble lists several ways. I would add one more: when you “do” Shakespeare, or theater in general, mean what you say.
This note applies to Intrepid’s opening night performance, because the cast varied a great deal in communicating the sense behind the words.
In battle, where violence has divine sanction, Macbeth is a second William “Braveheart” Wallace. When the enemy doubles their efforts, he goes all in and “doubly redoubles” his.
But when the “battle’s lost and won,” and three witches give him a double message, he gives it a single interpretation. And when his ambitious wife questions his manhood, Macbeth sets in motion a chain of peacetime havoc that doubly redoubles itself.
“We have scorched the snake,” Macbeth tells Lady M. in Act three, “not killed it.”
What gives the play its tragic dimension: the more turmoil swirls within Macbeth, the more poetic he becomes; and the more Lady Macbeth tries to repress her conscience, the more it hounds her soul.
At the end of his tragedies, Shakespeare often has an “in case you missed the point” speech. Here young Malcolm calls the Macbeths “this dead butcher and his fiend-like queen.” True, but an idea bangs around the brain long after: they could have been otherwise.
Intrepid Shakespeare’s opening night had a “give it a week” feel. During the first half of Act one, actors hurtled through their lines as if doing a pell-mell “run-through.” Only Francis Gercke’s Banquo and Danny Campbell’s Duncan combined thoughts and verbal discoveries at a natural pace.
Some in the cast settled in, including Sean Cox as Macbeth — he hit the harshest notes well, but still could have been more grounded — and Patrick Duffy’s Macduff as a Hotspur from north of Hadrian’s wall.
Sandy Campbell made an arresting choice as Lady Macbeth. In the end she becomes an Ophelia, as fragile as she is tormented. More of the unconscionable “fiend,” early on, would make the choice even bolder.
One of my favorite scenes in Macbeth is often most productions’ least. In Act four, scene three Malcolm (called a “boy” in the text) confesses that he’d be a horrible king: he’s sex-starved and so greedy he’d steal all the nobles’ land. It turns out, in a transformation that recalls Prince Hal’s from rake to royalty, Malcolm’s a virgin with a teenager’s epic imagination. Brian Rickel is too old for the part and needs a better grasp of the character’s sweeping arc.
On the plus side: Jim Chovik almost steals the show with comic business. He plays the Porter, too drunk to open a door, and does one of the funniest, earthiest renditions of the Porter’s speech I’ve ever seen/heard.
Chovik also plays Macbeth’s attendant, Seyton — pronounced “Satan” —and hovers behind the usurping King with a devilish smirk.
The Three Witches — Savvy Scopelleti, Tiffany Tang, Erin Peterson, wearing Erin Peterson’s dappled outfits — are a treat. At first sight they’re a bizarre, quivering mound — doing a group grope? Thanks to some smart, uncredited choreography, they remain strange and otherworldly throughout.