CEDAR CITY — Before diving into this production, I must admit that Macbeth is my favorite Shakespeare play. It was the first one I read and it converted me to the Bard for life. Over ten years later, I’m still enthralled by this text and its story of assassinations, madness, and the supernatural. Therefore, I arrived at the Utah Shakespearean Festival’s opening night performance with a clear idea of the potential that this production held. To my delight, director Joseph Hanreddy surpassed my hopes.
For those of you unfamiliar with “The Scottish Play,” Macbeth is the story of the title character’s (Grant Goodman) rise of power after he meets three witches who foretell that he would rise in power among the thanes (mid-level nobles) and eventually become king. The witches also tell his friend Banquo that he won’t become king—but his children will. After one of the prophesies is fulfilled, Macbeth tells all to his wife (Kymberly Mellen) in a letter, who then prods him to murder King Duncan (Michael A. Harding) in their castle in order to ascend to the throne. With a great deal of difficulty, he does so and becomes king. After obtaining power, Macbeth murders his political enemies—including Banquo—to maintain his hold on power. The atrocities he commits (and a visit from Banquo’s ghost) cause him and his wife to descend into madness until she dies and he is killed in a swordfight by an opposing political faction.
Despite the many times I’ve read or seen Macbeth, Hanreddy took a unique viewpoint on the show that I had never considered before by examining the effect that Duncan’s murder has on the marriage between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Throughout the middle section of the play, we watch the two move from a clearly loving couple to estranged spouses. The intimacy of their relationship makes Macbeth’s line, “She should have died hereafter,” far more callous and cold than I had ever considered. Hanreddy’s direction didn’t avoid any of the darkness of Shakespeare’s script; indeed, he added slight touches to make Macbeth’s actions more horrific. For example, there were children in Duncan’s retinue at Macbeth’s castle—which emphasizes the severity of the collateral damage from Macbeth’s treachery.
Grant Goodman’s performance in the title role was superb in every respect. He brought a subtlety to the role that I had never experienced before. Especially gripping is the character’s inward struggle when Lady Macbeth suggests the murder until when it’s carried out. Goodman’s performance was so thrilling that I found myself drawn into the psychology of Macbeth: Does he have a choice about murdering Duncan? Does he think he has a choice? How powerful are his wife’s arguments in favor of the murder? Macbeth’s descent into madness and the ruthlessness by which he eliminates his political opponents is also a thrill to watch.
Kymberly Mellen was also a highly engaging Lady Macbeth. She portrayed a rich, multidimensional character who simultaneously balances the roles of wife, head of household, assassination plotter, and queen. (She truly felt like a medieval version of the woman who can have it all.) Perhaps my favorite aspect of Mellen’s performance, however, was her shift from being completely sure about her husband’s course of action to becoming increasingly unsteady as both she and Macbeth become psychologically strained as their guilt and madness increase.
The other actors in the production were also suited to their roles. The witches (Lillian Castillo, Monica Lopez, Chelsea Steverson) were eerie and appropriately inhuman—especially when Macbeth visits them again to find out more about the future. I also want to single out some other outstanding members of the cast who strengthened this show: Tony Amendola (playing the Porter), Michael Brusasco (Macduff), and Quinn Mattfeld (Malcolm). The latter two’s scene in the second half of the play was admirable, given the scene’s potential to slow down the evening.
Visually and technically, Macbeth is a triumph. I was especially impressed by the sound design (from Lindsay Jones), which was perhaps the best of the six plays currently playing at the Festival. I also adored the men’s costumes (Bill Black), which were masculine and visually stunning at the same time.
In a desperate attempt to find anything wrong with this performance, I want to point out that Fleance’s (LJ Benet) escape from the murderers seemed a little too easy on opening night. But this moment of imperfection lasts for less than a minute. This production really is incredibly close to being flawless.
Obviously, I believe that our UTBA readers should see Macbeth. It was my favorite production from the opening week of the Utah Shakespearean Festival, and it satisfied this Macbethophile completely.
Update: Click here to watch Kymberly Mellen talk to UTBA about Macbeth.