Shakespeare in the Arboretum’s production of “Macbeth” opens with the bodies of soldiers stretched out on the grass following a battle.
Only one soldier remains alive to be rescued by his companions. Soon after, Macbeth, general of the Scottish king’s army, stumbles upon the Weird Sisters. The bent and old hags prophesy his rise to power. Macbeth is horrified by his own growing desire, afraid to think what he himself would do to be king.
Thus begins the story of a man’s struggle for dominion and his battle with conscience. Lady Macbeth, played by senior Kendall Karpack, counters her husband’s reluctance to assassinate his cousin the king, rejecting morality in a chilling prayer for cruelty and hardness of heart.
“I love it. It’s such a challenge,” Karpack said of her role. “I did theater all throughout highschool, and I’d usually play romantic leads. I love broadening my acting horizons, so she’s definitely the most fun character I have played.”
Sophomore Sarah Schutte portrays Lady Macduff, gentle and motherly, as the antithesis of Lady Macbeth. In a scene during the second act, she gains the sympathy of the audience. Longing to see her exiled husband, she mourns that her son must live without a father. Her monologue exemplifies the honest simplicity of her relationship with her husband in contrast with the scheming of the Macbeths.
In a wrenching climax, Lady Macduff and her son are attacked by Macbeth’s men, and she dies bravely fighting to defend her family.
A grassy pavilion in the Slayton Arboretum serves as a stage, backed by firs and evergreen bushes. Peaceful and lovely, the natural setting proves a challenge when considering the dark mood of Shakespeare’s production. Macbeth’s lines frequently describe his inner struggle, creating a mood that is tense and almost suffocating as it causes the audience to wait in suspense for the disaster that must follow his treacherous actions.
The darkness of the story might seem out of place in the
fresh atmosphere of the arboretum, but the directors chose to take advantage of this feature in their portrayal.
“The arb is beautiful, so performing something as dark as Macbeth is difficult,” co-director senior Faith Liu said. “However, that’s what the play is about. Appearances can be deceiving. So we are playing on that theme.”
The script features multiple double meanings. Liu and fellow director senior Daniel Negri drew on this theme when making artistic decisions. They cast actors to play both protagonists and antagonists within the same performance, suggesting the potential for corruption in all humans. The actors playing the Weird Sisters in the second act also play innocent characters in the first act. Freshman Molly Schutte, cast as a Weird Sister, praised Liu and Negri for their directing skills.
“It’s been interesting to watch Faith and Dan shape how we play our characters because they have a specific vision for how they want us to portray them,” she said. “But they also give us freedom to think about what our characters are saying.”
The second act opens with a famous incantation of the Weird Sisters, “Double, double, toil and trouble,” propelling the story at the same rapid pace as the first act, onward toward a tragic close.
The cast includes Joe Banovetz ’15 as Macbeth and senior Kendall Karpack as his dominating wife. Junior Austin Benson will play the honest Banquo, Senior Dominic Restuccia will portray Malcolm, and Shelby Ripley will take the role of Macduff. The cast, a majority of which are students, is joined by Assistant Professor of Politics Adam Carrington as King Duncan.
The production will stage two performances this weekend: one at 2 p.m. Saturday and the other at the same time on Sunday. In case of rain, the performances will be held in McNamara Rehearsal Hall at Howard Music Building.