I’ve enjoyed Shakespeare’s Macbeth staged and interpreted in a variety of ways. I’ve seen Lady Macbeth cast as a woman much older than the Thane of Cawdor ― old enough to be his mother, in fact. I’ve enjoyed a cartoon version of the play. I’ve seen an all-female version. And I’ve watched ― captivated ― as Lady Macbeth, completely nude, goes completely mad. This past Sunday, I witnessed yet another absolutely ingenious adaptation from the imagination of Director Robert G. Anderson ― most particularly his casting of Duncan and his utilization of the Weird Sisters.
Lisa Gaye Dixon plays the part of Duncan, King of Scotland. Dixon has previously performed another traditionally male role for the Department of Theatre Series ― that of Falstaff ― in Shakespeare’s Henry the IV. It was, in fact, the best live performance of Falstaff that I’d ever seen, and her performance as Duncan is equally impressive. Dixon has an extraordinary talent for channeling male energy like no other actress I’ve ever seen. You’ll quickly forget her gender and lose yourself in Duncan’s gregarious personality, his clear love of his soldiers, and his misplaced faith in his hosts. My only complaint regarding Dixon’s performance is that it wasn’t long enough.
The three Weird Sisters are employed often ― and skillfully ― in this production. Played by Katie Bellantone (who performed her role while continually twisting her body into a deformed mutation of itself), Michelle Grube (the “maiden” of the three), and Luke Grimes (the only Sister who actually has a beard for Banquo to remark upon), all three of these actors execute their parts beautifully. They are on stage almost as often as the play’s title character (which makes sense, considering that every move Macbeth makes is influenced by them). And from the opening scene, in which the Sisters conjure the Throne from beneath the earth, it is clear who controls Scotland’s fate.
With most live Shakespeare productions, one is always at risk of suffering through recited lines that betray the performers’ clear lack of textual understanding. But that seldom happens with this cast, and it never happens with Ethan Gardner (Macduff) or Charlie Lubeck (Banquo), two actors I Iook forward to seeing in future productions. Keep in mind, however, that this cast is young ― the majority being BFAs ― and not every verse spoken will be of Olivier caliber.
Two performances (besides those already mentioned) that stand out are Christopher Sheard and Bri Sudia (Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, respectively). The sexual chemistry between these two sizzles. Sheard has a knack for portraying incredulousness and hopeless malaise ― two emotions that are essential when playing Macbeth ― convincingly. He is absolutely up to the task of performing this difficult role. Sudia’s Lady Macbeth harangues her husband without coming off as annoyingly shrill. Her mad scene is utterly magnificent, and alone worth the ticket price.
The U of I Department of Theatre has produced another excellent Shakespeare play, and I unhesitatingly recommend that you see it if you can.
Thursday-Friday, Oct. 14–15, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 16, 2:00 and 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday–Friday, Oct. 20–22, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 23, 2:00 and 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 24, 3:00 p.m.
The 3:00 p.m. shows on Wednesday and Thursday are 2 tickets for the price of 1.