Review: MACBETH from Seattle Shakespeare

Bloody, spooky Shakespeare, just in time for Halloween.

By: Oct. 29, 2022
Review: MACBETH from Seattle Shakespeare
Review: MACBETH from Seattle Shakespeare
Esther Okech, LindsayWelliver, Reginald André Jackson,
and Alexandra Tavares in Macbeth from Seattle Shakespeare.
Photo credit: Robert Wade Photography

In this time of year with black cats, ghouls and ghosts, and things that go bump in the night, it stands to reason that Seattle Shakespeare would bring out one of the bloodier and creepier of Shakespeare's canon, "Macbeth", or "the Scottish play" as it's known by superstitious theater folk who don't wish to incur its curse. And while this production, directed by the incredible John Langs, hits most of the right notes (in more ways than one), there was one major point of the show that just didn't work for me. But we'll get to that in a minute.

First, let's touch on the story that many already know. We have Macbeth (Reginald André Jackson), a victorious soldier for good King Duncan (Charles Leggett). He and his comrade Banquo (Jonelle Jordan) are arriving home as heroes when they encounter three witches, The Weird Sisters (Varinique "V" Davis, Esther Okech, and Lindsay Welliver), who share their prophecy for Macbeth that he will be King and that Banquo will not but will bring forth a line of kings. They dismiss these words for the most part until other elements they mentioned begin to take shape and Macbeth, along with his ambitious wife Lady Macbeth (Alexandra Tavares), plot to kill the king and take the throne. All of which sets off a string of murders and battles to see who will be left standing and thus be king.

Arguably one of Shakespeare's best and certainly offers some of the best mad scenes that actors ache for. And the madness is certainly on point here. Langs has amped up the creepy factor with some stunning pacing but also with a fantastically eerie scenic design from Pete Rush, filled with blood red, gnarled branches, fabulously lit by lighting designer Bryce Bartl-Geller. And he's also brought in some haunting and powerful music from composer Marchette DuBois. But it's Langs gift for directing Shakespeare and making sure it's never bogged down by the Elizabethan English that makes the show what it is. He seems to have mastered getting his cast to go beyond the pretty words and able to convey the intent and that is crucial.

But it didn't all work for me and in one main key part, the witches. Fine actresses all but they were less than menacing or mysterious, quite inconsistent amongst each other, and a bit silly and over the top. From the first moment we meet them, Davis is lurching forward and twitching but the other two are not. So why is she? And it just gets more confusing from there as I was never certain when they were playing witches and when they were doubling as other characters. And then there was the dance number. Yes, the script says they dance in a mad frenzy at one point but this particular frenzy from choreographer Amy O'Neal wasn't very mad and just felt tacked on. The one element of them that did work was the vocals given them by DuBois which did lend them an air of mysterious but it was a case of "too little, too late".

Review: MACBETH from Seattle Shakespeare
Jonelle Jordan in Macbeth from Seattle Shakespeare.
Photo credit: Robert Wade Photography

The rest of the cast brings in some stellar performances with some absolute standouts. Chip Sherman as Duncan's son Malcom, now on the run from the murderous Macbeth, brings in a stunning commitment to the role and their stage presence is undeniable. Same could be said for Darius Sakui as Lennox whose intensity never wavered. And Jordan as the betrayed Banquo was an absolute stunner especially in the moments where she came back as a ghost to taunt Macbeth and truly brought in the level of menace and creepiness I was looking for in the show.

But the show is called Macbeth and so we need to focus on him as well as Lady M. Fantastic performances both. Jackson always brings his A game to any role and his descent into madness was a gorgeous slow burn that carried the audience beautifully throughout the show. And Tavares, not to be outdone in the madness department, starts off as simply driven but that drive slowly makes her go mad until her final moments, which were riveting.

So, the show didn't thrill me (or creep me out) on as many levels as I hoped it would but it did manage some stunning turns. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give Seattle Shakespeare's production of "Macbeth" an only slightly disappointed MEH+. A spooky show to start off their season that could have been so much more.

"Macbeth" from Seattle Shakespeare performs at the Center Theatre through November 20th. For tickets or information, visit them online at www.seattleshakespeare.org.




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