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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

A violent 'Macbeth' premiers at the Guthrie

By Daniel Kerwin

If being at Macalester has heightened your appetite for all things Scottish, then you won’t want to miss the Guthrie Theater’s production of the ultimate Scottish play, William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The play opened last Sunday and plays through April.As with most Shakespeare plays, you should make sure to brush up on the story before attending. The play stays close to the authentic Shakespearean language, which at times becomes desperately hard to follow. You will lose nothing from the experience by knowing the story beforehand. You’ll do better to look up the plot on Wikipedia, but basically the story follows the fulfillment of a prophecy Macbeth receives from the mysterious Weird Sisters, which sees him rise to the throne of Scotland through murder and deceit, which in turn leads to even further murder and deceit and his eventual demise.

This incarnation of the play keeps the setting in Scotland, but moves the time period to what appears to be the early Twentieth Century. Most of the characters are dressed in military uniforms from the First World War, and while in combat Macbeth packs heat, alternating between shooting foes and slashing them with his combat knife. The fight scenes in the play stand out quite a bit, with the action excellently choreographed to the extent that it wouldn’t look out of place in most action movies.

Immediately after you walk into the theater you can tell you will be in for a gloomy story. The production is housed at the Guthrie’s Wurtele Thrust Stage, in which the audience sits around the stage in a semi-circle. The dark painting of the stage echoes the dark nature of the play. The set resembles a junkyard, with pieces of trash strewn around it such as an oven and a bicycle, and although the stage transforms throughout the play from battlefield to living room to banquet hall, the trash always remains in sight.

The technical effects greatly enhance the eerie atmosphere that prevails throughout. The voices of the Weird Sisters are enhanced by echo, and during one scene demonic voices are made to come out from small children, producing one of the creepiest effects imaginable.

However, despite some strong acting performances, none of the characters really stood out as being overly memorable. Macbeth is played by bearded hunk Erik Heger, and Lady Macbeth by feisty redhead Michelle O’Neill, and together they create some lusty scenes and they both project the insanity of their characters well. The cast members speak in accents that pass as British, but none of them attempt to produce a true Scottish accent, which was somewhat disappointing for a production of “The Scottish Play.” At the end of the production you aren’t particularly left wanting more, happy to see the characters walk offstage and to walk back into everyday life yourself.

The production is the 50th Shakespeare play put on by the Guthrie, though this doesn’t give any special character to the performance itself. If this is your first time seeing the play, it serves as a worthy first experience. Unfortunately, my first experience with the play was in London at the Globe Theater on the bank of the Thames, a replica of the actual theater that Shakespeare’s plays were first performed, and even years later I still remember the glorious Scottish accent of the actor that played Macduff (I used to secretly hope the actor would release a recording of himself simply reading the dictionary in that accent). The Guthrie’s version is but one variation of a play that has been around for centuries.

That isn’t to say that the Guthrie is a disappointing theater. For anyone who hasn’t been before, it’s worth a visit simply to experience the venue – the Guthrie has a very modern feel, and in addition to admiring the architecture, you are treated to a very scenic view alongside the Mississippi River at the edge of downtown Minneapolis.

Macbeth is playing at the Guthrie through April 3, with performances every day of the week besides Mondays. Tickets range from $29-$60, and the cheapest times to go are Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday evenings.

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