Review: Minimalist MACBETH Lays Bare the Inner Workings of the Power-Hungry Mind, at Portland Center Stage


Twenty-plus years ago, I saw a production of The Merchant of Venice that consisted entirely of four actors and four folding chairs. Like all students, I had studied Shakespeare in school, and I'd seen a few of his plays staged, but until that moment, I never got it in any real sense. This uber-minimalist production changed everything -- I finally understood why, 400 years later, we still turn to Shakespeare when we want to better understand human nature.

Right now, there is perhaps no aspect of human nature that we need to understand more than the blind ambition for power that drives MACBETH, which is now running at Portland Center Stage. Like the Merchant I saw many years ago, this version, with a script edited and abbreviated by Lee Sunday Evans, uses the minimum possible number of actors -- three, all of whom are women -- to play all of the roles. This stripped-down production, directed by Adriana Baer, warns us against the worst parts of ourselves. It's superb.

Gender-swapping and single-sex productions are currently quite popular. Perhaps because I'm so used to it, I often don't find that the actor's gender fundamentally changes my perception of the play. That was not the case here. MACBETH is a tale of a man whose hunger for absolute power leads him to commit terrible atrocities, including murdering his best friend. Perhaps because we've gotten so used to watching men commit violent acts, watching women do them makes makes us focus on how terrible they actually are. These aren't the actions of a powerful leader; they're the actions of a madman.

This feeling is amplified by Dana Green's magnificent performance as Macbeth (and a host of other characters). She moves fluidly from calmness to rage, to paranoia, to possible remorse, and back again, disturbingly illuminating Macbeth's psychological deterioration. Chantal DeGroat's character list includes Lady Macbeth, who she plays as a generally nervous wreck who's able to pull herself together once she decides what needs to be done, as well as Lady Macduff, whose palpable grief bounces off the walls of the Ellen Bye Studio. Meanwhile, Lauren Bloom Hanover does justice as too many characters to count, including Banquo and Macduff, Macbeth's chief rivals.

Overall, this is a very haunting Macbeth, made even more haunting by Stephen Dobay's sparse gray set, Carl Faber's dim lighting, and Heather Christian's original score of a cappella music. I recommend it very highly. If you haven't seen MACBETH in a while, or this is your first go at it, take some time to brush up on the play so you can keep track of the characters.

MACBETH runs at Portland Center Stage through November 24. More details and tickets here.

Photo credit: Kate Szrom/Courtesy of Portland Center Stage at The Armory



This wild play by Max Yu explores how technology isolates and then consumes us as it goes from being a tool we use to something we’re used by.

Review: MARY JANE at Third Rail Repertory Theatre

This beautiful play is a powerful lesson in staving off despair and loneliness through authentic connection with others.

Puppeteers for Fears' CTHULHU: THE MUSICAL Will Embark on West Coast Tour

Puppeteers for Fears, Oregon's only dedicated puppet musical horror troupe, will bring its original show, Cthulhu: the Musical!, on the road to cities throughout the NW for performances on the company’s 'Back From the Dead,' 2023 summer tour.

Bag&Baggage Productions Launches into their 23/24 Season with The Catapult Campaign

Bag&Baggage Productions, Hillsboro’s own, nationally known, professional theatre company, has launched their first major fundraising campaign under the leadership of new Artistic Director Nik Whitcomb.

From This Author - Krista Garver

Krista lives in Portland, Oregon. She fell in love with musicals at age 5, when her parents took her to see a university production of The Music Man. Krista attends as much theater as possible, in as ... (read more about this author)


#repshow# in[i]# Something Rotten!
Lakewood Theatre Company (4/28-6/11)Tracker PHOTOS
#repshow# in[i]# Schubert & Faure: Masters of Lyricism | Chamber Music Northwest Summer Festival
Patricia Reser Center for the Arts (6/29-6/29)
#repshow# in[i]# Going To St. Ives
21ten Theatre (6/02-6/25)PHOTOS
#repshow# in[i]# Emerson Quartet Farewell with Gloria Chien | Chamber Music Northwest
Reed College, Kaul Auditorium (7/08-7/08)
#repshow# in[i]# True Story
Artists Repertory Theatre (5/06-6/04)
#repshow# in[i]# Native Gardens
Hillsboro Artists' Regional Theatre (HART) (6/16-7/02)
#repshow# in[i]# umama womama: Coleman, Lash & Ngwenyama | Chamber Music Northwest
Lincoln Performance Hall (7/10-7/10)
#repshow# in[i]# 2022 Season
Triangle Productions (9/08-6/17)
#repshow# in[i]# CMNW Presents the Oregon Bach Festival: Magnificat | Chamber Music Northwest Summer Festival
Reed College, Kaul Auditorium (7/01-7/01)
#repshow# in[i]# umama womama: Coleman, Lash & Ngwenyama | Chamber Music Northwest
Lincoln Performance Hall (7/09-7/09)

Recommended For You