By Thom deMartino
There is no sound of breath; no creaking of chairs; no fidgeting of restless audience members. All is deathly silent in the theater: the audience bearing witness to a once-charmed and noble warrior, as he begins his irrevocable plummet from grace, into hell. When it comes to Shakespeare’s works, few are as galvanizing and tragic as the bloody fall of “Macbeth,” directed by Martie Ramm and currently playing at the Golden West College Mainstage Theater. Matthew Cobb (fresh off his ACTF Irene Ryan acting recognition for his work in “Never the Sinner”) plays the titular anti-hero, torn between loyalty and ambition.
After emerging triumphantly from battle, Scottish general Macbeth and his devoted friend and fellow general, Banquo (Maththew Villescas) find themselves confronted by the mysterious Weird Sisters (Alexis Cueva, Kaitlin Lueke and Madison Smith.) The trinity of witches bear prophecies to the pair: Macbeth himself will gain recognition, new titles, even one day be king — and though Banquo will not, the sons of his lineage will be. When the sisters vanish, the two warriors are left puzzled, mulling over the deeper meaning of witches’ words.
While King Duncan (Jay Harbison) hasn’t an inkling of the tragedy about to befall him at the hands of one of his most trusted officers, as the fulfilling of the first of the witches’ prophecies has spurred Macbeth to mull over his king’s mortality. And yet, the general still finds himself fretting and conflicted over committing such a treacherous act: but his wife, the equally ambitious Lady Macbeth (Savannah Smith), lustful at the thought of ascending to such power, seductively steels his resolve to take the throne he feels it is his destiny to seize.
Their plan, however, proves to be anything but flawless. While the king’s unconscious attendants (plied with wine by Lady Macbeth) might be the perfect scapegoats for the crime, Macbeth himself emerges from murdering his sleeping sovereign, haunted by spectral sounds and thoughts – carelessly bringing the bloodied weapons to his own chamber. Stepping up to cover for her traumatized husband, the lady of the household takes the blades, and goes to prepare the scene for the following morning’s gruesome discovery.
Events set in motion by the bloody deed lead to Macbeth’s coronation, but all is far from well: Banquo finds himself pondering over the convenience of the Weird Sisters’ fulfilled oracles, and what that means for himself and his family; the noble MacDuff (Jonathan West), still loyal to his fallen monarch, has doubts about his new liege’s fitness to rule; and the new king himself cannot sleep — haunted by ghostly visions and the weight of his crimes, falling prey to paranoia… and gradually descending into madness.
A breaking point, perhaps even a reckoning, is looming – and there are prophecies yet to be fulfilled…
This is a powerful and haunting production, in its portrayal of a flawed hero falling prey to his own weaknesses, his desperation for power and recognition: it is almost as if he is a leaf in a tempest, buffeted about by the prognostications of fate and the ambitions of the one who is questionably his “better half.” Ultimately, the responsibility for his actions falls upon the man himself — as does the madness, the terrible blossoming of an insatiable hunger for dominion… and the ultimate, bloody consequences.
Stellar performances abound: from West’s furied MacDuff; to the ethereal (and perhaps slightly chilling) presences of Cueva, Lueke and Smith’s triune of dark fate, the Weird Sisters; Villescas’ buoyant and valiant Banquo (as well as Colton Dorfman’s adorable cameos as his son, Fleance); and Savannah Smith’s driven, resolute, yet disturbingly sensual Lady Macbeth.
But it is of course Cobb’s portrayal of the tormented Macbeth himself who drives the tale, as the audience observes the deterioration of a once-courageous general, metamorphosing from a conflicted soldier questioning his destiny, into a tyrannical, power-mad despot, desperately clutching to power that never truly belonged to him in the first place.
This is the closing week for the Golden West production of “Macbeth”: and both devotees of the bard, and even those who may be a bit intimidated by Shakespeare’s works, will appreciate witnessing the tragic fall of a former hero –a flawed man, whose dark destiny overtook him.
“Macbeth,” Matthew Cobb, Savannah Smith and Jonathan West star in the haunting Shakespearian tragedy. Playing through Sunday, Nov. 19 at the Golden West College Mainstage Theater, 15751 Gothard St, Huntington Beach, CA 92647. Tickets available through the box office at 714-895-8150, x1 or at www.gwctheater.com.
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