Can one of the most-performed plays in history presented by a cast of familiar faces in a small theater community find ways to surprise audiences, while still staying true to its classical origins?
It was a bold move for &Sons Theatre, a new company on the scene, to present Macbeth as its first show in Santa Fe. You'd perhaps expect a theater company of young performers wishing to break molds and access raw, unhinged emotion to choose a new play, contemporary and edgy. But in the capable hands of director Ali Tallman and her cast, the Shakespearean tragedy from 1606 earns new life not only through a radical staging, but via inevitable comparisons to our current political sphere.
Half of you, readers, are likely salivating. The other half are considering turning the page. Why another Shakespeare play? You've seen Macbeth staged 10 times; no need for 11.
I played devil's advocate with myself and tried to think of reasons a skeptic should see this production, and thought immediately of the gender-bending titular couple, Mairi Chanel as Macbeth and Alex Reid as Lady Macbeth, how they absolutely blew it out of the water. Reid's portrayal in particular had me mesmerized; he perfectly depicted the wife driven mad with ambition, deeply in love with her husband but even more enamored of the power he could potentially obtain, and never hesitating to use her feminine wiles to get her way. Chanel's Macbeth, meanwhile, starts out strong as the character must, but slowly crumbles bit by bit as guilt, paranoia and fear rapidly destroy any chance he had at greatness.
But if that isn't enough, the smug, otherworldly Wyrd Sisters (Isabel Madley, Stephen Rommel and Zoe Burke) are fantastically creepy. Those still on the fence should know that Sarah Runyan's dual role as Banquo and Lady Macduff alone are worth the price of admission. Or really, the entire dinner party scene, complete with contemporary choreography and a sparse set, drives all the attention to a maddened Macbeth, a two-faced Lady and the silent ghost of Banquo, all three indispensable and intriguing.
And, well, the set in general is fascinating—a simple plywood platform (ominously bloodstained from previous performances) sends all attention toward the actors' faces and bodies as they change from character to character, for indeed, only the Macbeths and the Sisters play one role the whole time.
If those aren't enough highlights, there is always the inevitable and unnerving comparison to be drawn between the 400-year-old plot and whatever the hell it is that's going on in Washington right now. An unhinged and ill-advised ruler, starved for power and unstable at home, runs through his closest friends and allies and picks them off one by one out of fear, out of jealousy, out of suspicion—all culminating in a tragic and bloody end.
Any stumbles made by this cast felt forgivable. Notably, it was clear everyone in the cast was intimately familiar with the script and had done immense character work; while this is a great thing that lends itself to thoughtful portrayals, it also led to a lot of speedy talking, always risky in Shakespeare for folks who don't have any given plot memorized when they walk in the door (namely, me). I was able to follow easily enough thanks to deft characterization and capable performances, but many conversations were swept under the diction rug.
Particularly worth noting as well is the age of this entire production: I'd eat my hat if anyone onstage was over the age of 40. The whole show oozed the kind of youthful exuberance that is reinvigorating Santa Fe's theater community at large right now. Guided by the institutional knowledge of the veterans of the scene, the kids are truly all right on our town's stages, and &Sons could emerge as a frontrunner for most innovative group.
8 pm Thursdays-Saturdays through March 7;
2:30 pm Sundays March 1 and 8. $18-$40.
1213 Parkway Drive,
andsonstheatre.com; tickets here.