Review: THE TRAGEDIE OF MACBETH β An Immersive Experience Takes You Inside the Spooky Atmosphere of Shakespeare's Scottish Play
The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles brings the spirit of the Halloween season to life in THE TRAGEDIE OF MACBETH - An Immersive Experience, inviting audiences to move about SCLA's 22,000 square-foot building, including its underground car park, a kitchen, loading dock and studio which are transformed into all locations for the play, filled with floating daggers, tapestries that come to life, and bleeding walls, while 10 actors tackle nearly 30 characters.
The play begins to unfold when Macbeth's seemingly random meeting with three witches launches him on an escalating path of bloody carnage that haunts both him and his wife and drives them mad. Audience members, some of whom may be invited to participate in scenes, are guided from the Witches Heath, down the haunted hallways of Macbeth's castle to and from the murder scene, and to the unsuspecting Macduff family's peaceful home. Along the way, a visit is paid to the lair of the "toil and trouble" witches brewing around their cauldron before the experience ends by witnessing a fateful battle where a confrontation between rival adversaries pitches good against evil.
This quick-moving, 90-minute environmental theatre spectacular features live music and uses an adaptation by director Kenn Sabberton, who is well-known known for his work at England's Royal Shakespeare Company. "By removing the stage, the audience feels they are part of the drama," he shares. "They will experience the tension of Macbeth's dilemma as he sets about to prove the witches' prophecies. I have cut the play in order to facilitate telling the story with only ten actors but have taken no other liberties with the text." "This is a Macbeth for the Game of Thrones generation," said Ben Donenberg, artistic director of the Shakespeare Center. "People looking for a scary haunted house experience or those who enjoy their Shakespeare in a unique environment will be equally entertained as we tell an old story in a modern and fun way." Retired Disney Imagineer Chris Runco, who designed special effects for The Haunted Mansion®, Pirates of the Caribbean®, and Tom Sawyer's Island®, worked with Sabberton and the SCLA Veterans In Art crew to add mystery and magic to the show. "Macbeth is a wonderful piece to present in this immersive form" said Runco. "We can send our audience to misty Scottish moors, walk them through eerie, torch-lit castles, and surround them with chanting witches and bloody ghosts - a perfect way to bring this incredible, classic story to life."
As the tension mounts to its bloody end, audience members, especially the few who get invited into the scene within Macbeth's castle, are drawn into the characters' lives and motives, all the while experiencing the evocative moody atmosphere of haunted, stone-walled castles. Kudos go out to the entire design team from Runco's sets, Avery Reagan and Wesley Chew's lighting design, Joseph "Sloe" Slawinski's sound design, to A. Jeffrey Schoenberg's costume design which work brilliantly together with the talented acting ensemble to transport audiences into a sensory experience none will ever forget.
The entire ensemble masterfully pays great respect to the vocabulary and meaning of each phrase, honoring the music of Shakespeare's verse at all times. Several play instruments during scenes, creating an even more eerie atmosphere amid the fog and sorcery at hand when the Three Witches appear (Connor Keene, Erin Croom, and Jessica Bell). These three brilliantly make the most of their stage time, especially during the spell-casting bubbling cauldron scene. Certainly something wicked this way comes when these three are in the room.
Timothy Oake (Macbeth) and Katherine Banos (Lady Macbeth) dominate the murder scene, which takes place out of audience view, with great determination and doses of deep-felt fear. Oake effectively demonstrates the levels to which madness overtakes Macbeth through his dealing with the Witches and final confrontation with Macduff (Connor Keene, who transforms back into Witch #1 when the deed is done).
Others of note in the ensemble include Boris Bilic (Malcolm/Lord/Son), Reggie P. Louis (Banquo/Lord) whose frightening appearance in a dark hallway is not to be missed, Nick Bonanno (Duncan/Porter/Doctor/Lord/Murderer 2), Sheldon Donenberg (Ross), Samuel Christian Gibbs (Donalbain/Servant/A Messenger/Lord), Witch #3 Jessica Ball also portraying Lady Macduff/Fleance/Gentlewoman/Lord/Musician, and Witch #2 Eric Croom taking on Young Siward/Murderer 1).
THE TRAGEDIE OF MACBETH - An Immersive Experience performances run through November 2, 2019 on Saturdays & Sundays 7:30pm & 9:30pm. On closing date, Sunday, November 3, performances will be held at 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm. Free weekday matinees for schools are available in October by calling (213) 481.2273 x15. Tickets are $49 for adults and children, with the show recommended for children aged 9 and up. To purchase tickets, go to www.shakespearecenter.org or call (866) 710-8942 M-F 6am -6pm. Veterans - present your military ID 30 minutes prior to show time for one (1) free ticket.
Be aware the show moves up and down stairs and uses ramps and inclines, so please wear shoes comfortable for walking and standing, and do not carry large bags. Run time is approximately 90 minutes with no intermission. Contact the box office at (213) 481-2273 for questions about accessibility so that accommodations can be made.
The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles is located at 1238 W. 1st Street, Los Angeles, CA 90026 just opposite the 110 Freeway from Walt Disney Concert Hall, Center Theatre Group and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Free street parking is available near the theatre on Bixel and 2nd Streets.
Don't miss this classic play in a special Halloween re-imagining. When you attend, be sure to take a souvenir photo in the lobby booth and share it with the hashtag #MacbethSCLA
Photos courtesy of Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles