Tempting fate with Macbeth

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more.”

The Shakespeare Theatre’s season opener is a dark, ominous and potentially unlucky play. Referred to as “The Scottish Play” by those in the ever-superstitious theatre industry, Macbeth is known to bring bad luck to theatre companies that perform the play, or anyone who quotes it. Oops-knock on wood for not only The Hatchet but also the Shakespeare Theatre, which is now performing Macbeth for the third time since 1988, and hopefully without incident.

This Shakespearean classic follows Macbeth (Patrick Page) on his bloodthirsty quest for power. Encouraged by his wife, Lady Macbeth (Kelly McGillis) and the prophecies of three witches (Naomi Jacobsen, Sarah Marshall, Jewell Robinson), Macbeth kills Duncan, King of Scotland (Ted Van Griethuysen) and rises to assume his throne. Plagued by guilt, Macbeth is forced to continue ordering violent deaths to those who surround him in order to avoid being accused of the murder of Duncan. After a bloody spree, he believes himself to be undefeatable, only to meet his match in Lord Macduff (Andrew Long).

This interpretation of Macbeth varies widely from others because it is a stylized, modern take on the play, exhibited mainly through sleek, original costumes and set design. Costume Designer Linda Cho has chosen a wardrobe almost entirely black and white, with the predetermined victims of Macbeth often clad in the purest white and all other characters dressed in black. The costuming sets up an interesting contrast between personality and seems to provide additional foreshadowing for Macbeth’s evil deeds.

The set also features an unconventional design. Careful to incorporate the thematic element of the woods, it displays sheer panels printed with spooky trees in an austere, white tone, which is an unusual choice for a traditional Shakespeare play. The true standout performance was not Macbeth, but his wife, Kelly McGillis, who played Lady Macbeth with passion, and was even able to continue with poise despite what appeared to be a slight wardrobe malfunction.

Macbeth at the Shakespeare Theatre is a fresh rendition of a classic, possibly unlucky play. Featuring outstanding set design and costuming, this performance of “The Scottish Play” will hopefully be performed without bad luck being visited upon cast, crew, or theatre critics.

The Shakespeare Theatre is located at 450 7th St. N.W. Macbeth will run until October 24. For tickets, call (202) 547-1122.

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