Review: Macbeth at CCBC Academic Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

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Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

The Scottish Play. Macbeth. To utter the name in any theatre across the globe is considered to be bad luck for a production and anyone involved. Superstition right? During this time of year, late fall, All Hallows’ Eve is upon us and we might, for a split second, think of those silly superstitions have some weight to them. Fortunately, CCBC’s Academic Theatre’s latest offering, Macbeth, Directed by Anne Lefter with Set and Lighting Design by Terri Raulie and Costumes by James Fasching, doesn’t seem to carry the bad luck I’ve heard tell about. This production is presented in a traditional setting with some non-traditional casting and breathes new life into the timeless words of The Great Bard.

Set Design by Terri Raulie is simple, yet complex-looking with drapes hanging at different levels, giving depth to the stage as well as a tilted platform, reminiscent of how the original theatres of old were built and it gives a very authentic feel. Simple with earthy colors is the way to go with this production and Raulie uses her space wisely. Raulie also doubles as the Lighting Designer and her heavy design certainly makes up for the sparse (but appropriate) set on this large stage. The use of light and shadows designed by David Sunderland-Martin to move the story along is brilliant and simple, allowing for the imagination to fill in the blanks of this age old story. The shadow work alone is very impressive and gives the story a modern feel. Kudos to Sunderland-Martin for his work.

Though all this lighting was very appropriate to this production, there were moments when the stage was very dim and it was difficult to see the actors and action taking place. The dim lighting certainly set the mood, but took away from the action simply because it could not be seen clearly. Overall, Set and Lighting Design is outstanding and added great value to this production.

Macbeth's coronation. Credit: Dave Frey

Macbeth’s coronation. Credit: Dave Frey

Costuming a traditional Shakespearian production can be a challenge but veteran Costumer James Fasching takes that challenge and runs with it. His costume choices are impressive and his actors seem very comfortable in their respective garb, which is absolutely necessary. His color scheme matched the set, using earthy tones and dark colors adding to the authenticity of the piece and helping set the mood for the production.

Taking on a Shakespeare piece has its own set of problems from the beginning but Director Anne Lefter has given this piece a fresh look and, though she kept it traditional for the most part, managed to modernize it with technical elements and gender-blind casting. Lefter has an impeccable understanding of this piece and, in turn, her cast has a good grasp of the material, allowing them to present clearly to the audience. The death scenes (spoiler?) are outstanding and the audience even gets a “jump scare”, but I won’t tell you where it is, because, well, that would be cheating! There is an intense scene in which an entire family gets slaughtered and, I repeat, it is intense! The fight choreography from Rob Oppel is precise and works well in the scenes and adds just the right amount of action to the piece. The cuts Lefter decided to make in the script are wise (otherwise, we’d have been there for hours!) and in no way take away from the story of the tragic Macbeth. Kudos to Anne Lefter for taking the helm of this successful production.

Darius Foreman as Macduff and Anna Steuerman as Macbeth. Credit: Dave Frey

Darius Foreman as Macduff and Anna Steuerman as Macbeth. Credit: Dave Frey

Going into the performance aspect of Macbeth, the ensemble, as a whole, gives a remarkable performance and they work very well together. Sarah Spain, Cece Heck, Jaylon Paton open the show as the Three Sisters or Witches, making a creepy entrance in the dark, and serving as something of a narrator throughout the piece. They were a little hard to hear at times but all did a wonderful job working off of each other and, though I may have like my Witches to be a little more slinky and sinister, the trio does a fine job and are enjoyable to watch.

Henry Medrano and Alex Spain take on supporting characters in this production but certainly give 100% to their roles. Medrano takes on the roles of Malcom and Angus (Malcom, heir to Duncan’s crown and Angus, a nobleman against Macbeth) and plays them convincingly enough though he might want to work on his accent to match his fellow cast members and Spain takes on a few roles such as Murderer and Bodyguard. Both are self-assured in their roles and help move the story along nicely.

Tate Erickson tackles the role of Duncan, the ill-fated King of Scotland and I thoroughly enjoyed his performance. He is confident and comfortable on stage and seems to grasp the meaning of his character nicely. He really gets the rhythm of the Shakespearian language down. Listening to him, it sounded as if he were simply speaking naturally, without sounding jumbled, helping the audience’s understanding of the story. I look forward to seeing more from Erickson in the future.

Amy Fowler, as Banquo, does a splendid job taking on a masculine role and making it her own. She has a great stage presence and is comfortable and natural. She seems to understand the meaning of her character and plays it confidently. She has a great look for the role and gives a commendable and enjoyable performance.

It’s worth mentioning the child actors in this production of Macbeth. Sara Baunoch, Sammy Baunoch, and Sophia Clark are absolutely flawless in the children roles of this piece. These brave actors certainly hold their own against their older counterparts and give brilliant performances, giving 100% to their roles. High fives to these three young actors of whom, I predict, we’ll be seeing much more in the future.

As Macduff, Darius Foreman is formidable, with a large stature and great stage presence. He gives a fine portrayal of the doomed soldier and seems comfortable in the role. Throughout the performance, it was very difficult to understand Foreman whether it was the large space or, perhaps, needing a little work on diction. I found his vocal performance (not being able to understand a lot of what he is saying) impeded his physical performance, which looks very confident and comfortable. Overall, he gives an admirable performance and works well with his fellow cast members to move the story along.

Anna Steuerman as Macbeth and Lashay McMillan as Lady Macbeth. Credit: Dave Frey

Anna Steuerman as Macbeth and Lashay McMillan as Lady Macbeth. Credit: Dave Frey

Anna Steuerman as the titular character of Macbeth really grasps her character. It is clear she understands the torment, guilt, and anguish Macbeth is going through and she expresses it flawlessly. Both vocally and physically, Steuerman embodies the character of Macbeth and makes it her own. There are times she might be able to pull back a bit, but it is a tragedy and I can see where she is going. However, there’s a fine line between tragedy and melodrama and Steuerman, at times, teeters on that line. Her performance as Macbeth is strong, though, and she is clear and easy to understand making for a very successful performance.

Lashay McMillan as Lady Macbeth is a definite stand-out in this production. She takes on this complex role of a woman trying to stand by and even guide her husband no matter what the cost. McMillan portrays her not only as cold and calculating, but as compassionate, which is a difficult task but she tackles it successfully. Her confidence is clear and she elegantly moves about the stage with purpose. She seems to understand the yearning, pain, and distress of Lady Macbeth and plays it beautifully. Her performance is authentic and entertaining and I’m looking forward seeing Ms. McMillan in future productions.

Final thought… for some, any Shakespeare can be a tough pill to swallow, especially the tragedies, but CCBC Academic Theatre manages to make Macbeth accessible and present it with a fresh vision. Whether or not you are familiar with Shakespeare plays, you will not be disappointed in this production.

Macbeth will play through October 31 at The Community College of Baltimore County, Essex Campus, Robert and Eleanor College Center Theatre. For tickets, call the box office at 443-840-ARTS (2787) or purchase them online.

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