Outdoor theater is hard, especially on Keating steps. Planes constantly fly overhead, and conversations from Eddies float through the wind.
All of which makes the Theatrical Outreach Program (TOP) alfresco production of Macbeth even more impressive. The cast and creative team is strong as always, but the outdoor setting gives an extra, palpable element to the play.
The show starts with a bang, as three cackling witches tell the thane Macbeth that he is destined to become king of Scotland. Though he has no ambitions other than being a general, Macbeth, with the support of his wife, kills the king and takes the throne. Riddled with guilt and paranoia, he murders more and more nobles, even his friends, so as to “protect” himself and his throne.
Director James Demetriades and assistant director Elle Rose help the actors make exit use of their space. A line of candles separates the players from the audience, so the spectators are both detached from and involved in the action.
The Keating steps themselves also play a role, whether as a resting place for the many bodies that pile up or as a perch for the ever-present witches.
Michael Brown shows Macbeth to be a compelling antihero, whose fear and anxiety are balanced with a fervent desire for power. He also nails the “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” soliloquy at the end of the play.
As his Lady, TOP stalwart Jane Skapek is a powerful presence, ruthless in her desire for her husband to reach his full. bloody potential. She too gets to deliver one of the Bard’s most famous monologues, and when she utters “Out, damned spot” during her sleepwalking scene, the audience is heartbroken despite her villainy.
Fellow TOP veteran Max Beyer makes Macduff Macbeth’s opposite, and the play’s moral center. The scene in which he finds out that his entire family is dead is made even more heartbreaking by Beyer’s sensitive portrayal.
Gavin Barba shows the conflict inherent in Macbeth’s frenemy Banquo, who loves the thane but cannot stand by as he murders with no consequences. Banquo’s own killing leads to one of the production’s best scenes, when his bloody ghost spooks Macbeth at a dinner party- Barba is imposing without saying a word, a rare gift.
Honorable mention must go to the three witches — Amy Palen, Jamie Connors and Molly Carney. This trio of cackling mistresses hovers around the play, prophesying Macbeth’s demise through their sugary language. Once they start cooing “Double, double, toil and trouble,” the audience knows that things will only get worse for Macbeth- but with these three charismatic actresses as guides, they are still hungry to see more.
From TOP to bottom, this production of Macbeth is an absolute triumph, with great actors making excellent use of an outdoor space to tell a timeless story.
Disclaimer: James Demetriades is this critic’s roommate.
Author’s note: This will be my last Fordham theater review, since I am graduating in a couple of weeks. Because of this, a few thanks are in order:
To the members of Mimes, TOP and FET for all your brilliant performances over the last four years (2.5 as critic). Even if I didn’t love every part of every production, I was still wowed by your talent and vision.
To the readers, for taking my words seriously and letting me know that my work was worthwhile.
And to Connor, who had the crazy idea to make me theater critic in the first place. Working with you at The Ram and Fordham Daily has been one of the great joys of my college life.