LOGAN — When it comes to the works of the Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare, few plays are more revered and feared than Macbeth, the story of a man pulled down by his own arrogance and megalomania. The work is produced fairly often, though this is odd because the play is also associated with some heavy-duty superstition and bad juju actors. There is quite a bit of folklore associated with the play, but a very positive note in its storied history is the most recent production at Lyric Rep in Logan.
Upon entering the lobby of the Caine Lyric Theater, I was struck by how beautiful and old school the surroundings are. Gilt edged details, plush red carpeting, paneling all hark back to an earlier time in theatre history. It is a beautiful and magical venue, ready to transport its audience into a different time and place for a few hours. When I entered the theater itself, I immediately knew this would be a different kind of Macbeth. The set design by Annie Burdzy was stark and angular, with a wooden plank feel to the tall pillars and almost arrow-like projections suspended from the flies. The sound design by Bryan Z. Richards was very percussive, with drums and various other tympanic sounds giving a battle-worn feel to the play before it even began. Steven Piechocki used strong lighting and mildly disconcerting projections between scenes to up the uneasy and unsettled atmosphere. Overall, the designers worked extremely well together and created a cohesive concept of a nation at war, with others, and with itself.
The costuming choices in this adaptation brought the story into a modern, non-specific war zone. The soldiers were in a varied mix of fatigues from several different branches of the military, which I found a very interesting and effective statement about a world at constant war. The weird sisters costumes were stunning, in a slightly voodoo, cannibalistic sort of way, using motifs of bones, feathers, leather in each of the witches garb. They brought to mind shamans, witch doctors, or priestesses. The three actors who played the sisters (Madison Kisst, Sceri Sioux Ivers, Morgan Kerian) worked hard to create a three-as-one kind of characterization. They were fluid, athletic, and almost constantly moving whether talking to each other, or addressing intruders seeking guidance. The only criticism I might offer would be that they tended to resort to shouting, which grew tedious. But I loved the use of percussive vocalization to punctuate their words. The three actors were creepy and delicious and thoroughly enjoying themselves, which made me enjoy them as well.
The leading actors were stellar in their interpretations of these famous roles. Chris Mansa as Macbeth was magnificent. He was a strong and brave soldier in the beginning, clearly showing the journey his character takes from an eager young military leader anxious to serve well, to a man brought down by his own arrogance and delusions of grandeur, believing he is undefeatable. His journey from upstanding government leader to ultimate terrorist in his own country was gripping. Mansa riveted me with the strength and range he brings to the role. He has an easy assurance when speaking in asides to the audience, and a good understanding of the Shakespearean language. I understood every beat and emotion he played, every change of heart, every internal battle, until Macbeth finally becomes past feeling. Once or twice, his volume and rate of delivery made some of the lines difficult to understand, but the intention was always clear.
Kelly Rogers as Lady Macbeth is a worthy partner for Mansa. Her diminutive size belies her ferocity in getting what her character wants and what she believes her husband deserves. Rogers’s interpretation of the famous “out, out, damn’d spot” monologue was gripping. Usually I cannot muster much sympathy for Lady Macbeth at all, instead feeling as if she rightly deserves what she got. Yet in Rogers’ performance, I was able to appreciate her character’s changes as well, from ambitious political wife ruthlessly plotting her husband’s career, to worried partner trying to cover her husband’s odd behavior, to a frightened observer terrified by what she has in effect created and can no longer control. It was a stellar performance, satisfying in every way, yet not overdone.
Other performances worthy of note are Tyler Matthew Campbell, brilliantly providing the only bit of humor in the play as the drunk Porter attempting to dress before answering the pounding of the door. He was a welcome bright spot and in an otherwise intense play. Toby Tropper’s Banquo was also strong, as Macbeth’s friend/comrade and ultimate jealous rival. Mitch Shira as MacDuff deftly handled the range of emotion he must navigate from horror to anger to fear to sadness to fierce warrior. Shira was always interesting to watch, and well-matched to Mansa’s physicality, especially in the intense fight scenes.
Jason Spelbring as the fight choreographer deserves high praise. The many fights scenes were realistic, exciting, and believable, athletic and exhausting. This story is full of death, both onstage and off, it was well staged, and not overdone.
Director Adrianne Moore has assembled a strong cast and tells an intriguing story. The story, though long and grim, clips along at a good pace. The staging is simple yet effective. My theatre companion was a young 14-year-old with an emerging interest in Shakespeare, and she was able to follow the story and become fully engrossed. My one complaint was in the dinner scene, when Banquo’s ghost appears to Macbeth, it was very difficult to see what was going on upstage, where Macbeth was standing most of the time, although Banquo’s exits and entrances were slick and effective.
This Macbeth is a praiseworthy production, and well worth the drive to Logan to catch it this summer. I applaud Moore and her entire production staff and cast.
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