California Shakespeare Theater’s 2010 season continues with Shakespeare’s gripping tale of the consequences of unbridled ambition, Macbeth, August 18–September 12.
Returning to direct is Joel Sass, associate artistic director of The Jungle Theater in Minneapolis, whose 2008 production of Pericles was called “pitch-perfect” by the San Francisco Chronicle. As he did with Pericles, Sass has reimagined Macbeth for a company of eight speaking actors and four ensemble members who will each portray several characters throughout the production. According to Sass, the production will be “contemporary, incorporating strong elements of a gritty ‘reality’ but primarily evoking a world and behavior that is more dreamlike, interior, psychological…I’m after a sort of David Lynch-y quality I’d characterize as feverish, ominous, and slightly ritualized.”
“Pericles was a relatively unknown play, and so had the capacity to surprise an audience with a story they didn’t know,” continues Sass. “Macbeth, conversely, is one of the most well-known plays of Shakespeare—but my hope is that our production will still be packed with surprises and feel fresh, new, and immediate. Adapting it for a cast of eight is both challenging and really exciting, because the experience of the story becomes very concentrated, very intimate. Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most intense, harrowing journeys—he takes the audience on a dark ride into the most private ecstasies and agonies of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. My hope is that we’ll create a surprising, psychological thriller/horror show, and not a history pageant/morality play.”
Written in the early 1600s and first performed for King James I, son of Mary, Queen of Scots, Macbeth is loosely based on several stories in Holinshed’s Chronicles, a popular history of the British Isles familiar to Shakespeare and his contemporaries. The shortest of Shakespeare’s tragedies, it has been the subject of numerous artistic treatments, including an opera by Verdi; an all-African-American stage production produced by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration (WPA) and directed by Orson Welles; the Akiro Kurosawa film, Throne of Blood; and a 2010 interactive graphic novel with voiceovers by Derek Jacobi, among others. In addition, the story of Macbeth has been told in a one-man show, MacHomer, now on its 15th anniversary tour, which uses the voices of the popular Simpsons cartoon characters; Cal Shakes has announced that it will present MacHomer for seven performances only Aug 3-7.
Appearing as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, “the ultimate power couple” according to Sass, are Jud Williford, last seen at Cal Shakes in 2009 in his critically-acclaimed portrayals of Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet and Victor in Private Lives, and Stacy Ross, who is currently playing the title role of Mrs. Warren’s Profession. The cast also includes Cal Shakes Associate Artist James Carpenter (Duncan/Porter/Seyton/Murderer/Ensemble), recently selected as a 2010 Lunt-Fontanne Fellow; Delia MacDougall (Ross/Wyrd Sister/ Ensemble), last seen at A.C.T. in Round and Round the Garden and Cal Shakes’ Pericles; Craig Marker (Macduff/Murderer/Ensemble), best remembered for his portrayal of Tybalt in 2009’s Romeo and Juliet; Nicholas Pelczar (Banquo/Lennox/Ensemble), who appeared in A.C.T.’s Rock and Roll and War Music; and A.C.T. MFA students Nick Childress (Malcolm/Ensemble) and Omoze Idehenre (Lady Macduff/Wyrd Sister/Mentieth/Ensemble). Rounding out the ensemble are Marissa Keltie, Samantha Martin, Brian J. Patterson, and Noah Baldwin.
The talented design team for Macbeth includes: Dan Ostling (set design), an ensemble member with Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago whose work has appeared at regional theaters across the country and in Europe; Christal Weatherly (costume design), a much-in-demand designer with credits from Los Angeles to New York, most recently for Ruined at Oregon Shakespeare Festival; Russell Champa (lighting design), who designed the recent Broadway production of In the Next Room (or the vibrator play); and Andre Pluess (sound design), who created the evocative, occasionally whimsical music for last season’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Others on the artistic staff of the production are Dave Maier (fight director), Lynne Soffer (vocal/text coach), Philippa Kelly (dramaturg), Briana J. Fahey (stage manager), and Elizabeth Atkinson (assistant stage manager).
Single tickets for Macbeth are on sale now and range from $34–$70, with discounts available for seniors, students, persons age 30 and under, and groups. Prices, dates, and artists subject to change. Click http://www.calshakes.org/tickets or call 510.548.9666 to purchase.