BPA’s Macbeth is a ‘bummer worth watching’

Bainbridge Performing Arts’ production of ‘Macbeth’ is a gloomy, murky, heavy – sometimes blustery – bummer worth watching. Read the Kitsap Sun’s review below.

LOCAL THEATER: BPA’s ‘Macbeth’ ‘Lays On’ Thick, Indeed
By Michael C. Moore

“Macbeth” is, arguably, the darkest of all William Shakespeare’s tragedies, and the most intense.

Indeed, apart from the appearance of the drunken Porter prior to the intermission, there’s very little comic intensification — the tale of a Scottish kingdom come acropper is heavy, heavy stuff from start to finish.

You certainly get that in director Steven Fogell’s production for Bainbridge Performing Arts, which began its two-week pre-Halloween run Oct. 16. It is an intense, program-twisting, teeth-gnashing experience. Fogell wrings out Shakespeare’s cautionary tale of the corruptive power of power for its every particle of pathos.

With tons of machine-belched “fog” and effective lighting by Laura Gay, not to mention the eerie soundtrack by composer and cellist Jamie Sieber, BPA bathes its “Macbeth” in murk and dread — befitting a story filled with murder and deceit, witches and apparitions, tyranny and treachery.

It ain’t, if you haven’t yet arrived at this destination, an evening of frilly comedy. As I watched Fogell’s handsomely costumed, mostly well-prepared and ultra-committed cast go through its Shakespearean paces, I almost felt weighted down in my seat.

In this case, that’s a compliment.

It’s not to say that I thought BPA’s “Macbeth” was a total success, or even that I particularly liked it. But I have to admit that the theater’s season-opening production is visually arresting, consistently interesting and thought-provoking. And, ultimately, satisfying.

I do think the staging gets in its own way at some points. I started off thinking that the three main set pieces — one square flanked by two semicircles, all elevated — were an ingenious way to take the audience from one scene to the next, as cast members and attendants slid them around in a variety of configurations.

After a while, though, it seemed almost like some perverse goal to use the pieces in absolutely every possible alignment, which necessitated sliding them about between each and every of the play’s many, many scenes (not only is “Macbeth” Willie Shakes’ most intense show, it also is his most episodic). I’ll bet you can’t count how many different variations are used (the over-under is set at about 12).

The Witches — who goad Macbeth on to his acts of evil — are given an expanded presence in BPA’s rendering, which turns out to be both a good and bad thing. While I quite enjoyed the intense energy and presence Lee Ann Hittenberger, Claire Hosterman and Valerie Anne brought to the Weird Sisters, I sometimes found them more interesting — or, rather, more demanding of my attention — than the primary action on the stage. As riveting as they often were (Hosterman lasciviously tonguing one of the play’s infamous daggers, or preening like a kitten, both come to mind), they ultimately distract from the dialogue.

If anything, you’d have to say they did too good a job, I suppose.

Their main victim was poor Lady Macbeth (Keridwyn Deller), who was reduced from being a co-conspirator with her husband (Joseph Fountain) to more of a fifth wheel. The interpretations of “Macbeth” I’m most familiar with paint Macbeth’s wife as just as ambitious and ruthless as he, if not moreso, and make her the driving force in his murderous ascent.

But with the Witches so relentlessly putting the screws to Macbeth, his good lady wife simply seems to be along for the ride.

Fountain, with his shaven pate, chiseled jaw and booming voice, makes a commanding Macbeth. I found his speeches a bit blustery at times, a bit rushed at others, but his work was mostly commendable.

The other acting ranged from adequate to a bit better than that. Most of the principle soldiers dutifully recited their speeches with appropriate if unremarkable urgency, while Frank Buxton — as the aforementioned Porter — brought a welcome understanding and ease of delivery to his speeches that stood out by comparison.

In most reviews, if I told you the play was a bummer, it would be the opposite of an endorsement.

“Macbeth,” though, is supposed to be a bummer. So BPA’s “Macbeth” — richly decorated and mostly well-wrought — is hereby endorsed; a bummer worth watching.