BWW Review: Shakespeare on the Kennebec Presents Ambitious, Uncut Production of 'The Scottish Play'

BWW Review: Shakespeare on the Kennebec Presents Ambitious, Uncut Production of 'The Scottish Play'

John Willey's Bath, Maine -based Shakespeare on the Kennebec is presenting an ambitious, completely uncut production of the Bard's "Scottish play"- aka Macbeth at the Chocolate Church. The twenty-six person ensemble rendered the full text of Shakespeare's play - with many often cut scenes now heard - while at the same time Director John Willey takes a fresh conceptual look on the work.

The three-hour -long production is for purists in terms of text, as many of the scenes included here are traditionally cut in trimmed versions of the play. From a theatrical perspective, it his is a rare opportunity to hear some of these expository sequences that were so necessary for Shakespeare to set the scene in his day, though they do require the fortitude of the audience.

Despite Director John Willey's attention to textual accuracy, his directorial concept adds fresh touches that give the piece a new and credible slant. The most significant of these is the notion that the witches- o0ften treated as f9gments of the imagination or slightly whimsical 16th century fantasies - are actually real women with bloody backstories. Willey adds a pre-scene in which Macbeth's soldiers ruthlessly murder the women and rise almost immediately from their deaths to become witches, followers of Hecate and her cult of devil worship. The conceit explains their ensnaring of Macbeth, reinforced by the notion that Lady Macbeth is one of their initiates and followers. While nothing in Shakespeare affirms or gives the lie to this idea, it works remarkably well dramatically and provides a chilling undercurrent throughout. It also removes any of the silliness attached to the oft-parodied witches speeches and renders these women the central and dark focus of the play.

Willey continues to prove himself a creative and confident exponent of Shakespeare. Designing his own very attractive and functional set with a thrust platform to compliment the full proscenium stage, he achieves the scale of the drama. He moves the action with a steady hand - one might wish a little more accelerated pace - and differentiates between the action sequences and the soliloquies in a traditional but effective manner. He is ably assisted by Jeanette Wolfforth as Assistant Director and given beautiful support to the physical production by Dennis St. Pierre's lighting, the costume committee's lovely silhouetted attire, and the especially evocative sound design (unaccredited). The additi0n of whispered, eerie effects for the witches and an entr'acte haunting solo by Melanie Willey add to the effect.

The large cast each turns in committed and well-rehearsed performances of varying degrees of skill. Standouts include the three witches portrayed with eerie intensity by Shannon Lo Casco, Crystal Vicar, and Jacquelyn Mansfield; the very human, poignant and ultimately fiery Macduff of Dennis Crews, and the highly nuanced Lady Macbeth of April Joy Purinton, who captures the ruthlessness, vulnerability, desire, ambition, and ultimate fragility of the character which all make her human rather than a monster.

BWW Review: Shakespeare on the Kennebec Presents Ambitious, Uncut Production of 'The Scottish Play'In the title role, Clay Hawks achieves moments of dignity and pathos, though he never completely rises to the level of a Shakespearean tragic hero, because he never achieves the level if awe needed at first. His is a rather down-to-earth portrayal that works best as the character unravels and becomes tellingly human and venal. In other significant roles, JD McElligott brings a youthful innocence and resolve to Malcolm, though lacks the virile fire this Scottish young blood would have inspired; Nate Levesque makes an unfortunate and unintellgible choice to deliver Banquo in a Scottish accent that is out of keeping with the standard American Shakespeare speech of the rest fo the cast. Melanie Willey makes a lovely, if brief entr'acte appearance singing a haunting vocal transitions.

Kudos to the Chocolate Church for partnering in this ambitious endeavor and to Shakespeare on the Kennebec for continuing to serve the Bard,

Photos courtesy of the Bath Shakespeare Theatre

Performances run at the Chocolate Church in Bath, ME until June 10, 2018 Info at www.chocolate church.org

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From This Author Carla Maria Verdino-S├╝llwold

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