Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival
What sort of man murders a king in order to seize the throne? And what happens when his deeds catch up with him? Jeff Hudson looks at a new production of the classic tragedy, "Macbeth."
Most of Shakepeare’s serious male leads – guys like Hamlet and Othello – have noble traits, as well as tragic flaws. But Macbeth is a man who allies himself with the Dark Side, at first in baby steps, and then by leaps and bounds, to the point that he becomes a monster. How is Macbeth wicked? With assistance from actor Philip Charles Sneed, who’s playing the role at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, let us count the ways.
For starters, like all paranoid rulers, Macbeth is secretly spying on just about everyone around him.
“There’s not a one of them but in his house, I keep a servant fee’d.”
Macbeth also heeds occult prophesies from three witches, who he meets several times in the Scottish wilds, even though he doesn’t really trust them. “For now I am bent to know by the worst means the worst.”
And when he says the worst, he means it. In addition to committing murder himself, Macbeth sends his henchmen to kill other lords, and their children. “For mine own good, all causes shall give way. I am in blood stepped in so far that that should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er.”
You watch Macbeth compulsively, for the same reason that you can’t take your eyes off a building going up in flames. It’s a scary, singular, irresistible sight. But this play isn’t constant horror. “Macbeth” contains one of the funniest speeches Shakespeare ever wrote, placed by the author directly following the play’s most horrible murder. The speech is by the Porter, a nameless gatekeeper with a monumental hangover who entertains the audience by imagining that he’s opening the door into hell.
“Knock knock. Who’s there? Faith, here’s an equivocator, who could swear in both scales again either scale. Who committed treason enough for God’s sake, yett could not equivocate to heaven. Ohhhh, come in equivocator! A hahahaha.”
It’s been more than a decade since “Macbeth” has been professionally staged in Sacramento or Northern Nevada. This production is being performed under moonlight at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival through August 19. It features several excellent performances, but more than that it’s an opportunity to experience one of the world’s really great plays.