Something’s stirring inside The Rep.
And though it’s certainly due to the swelling excitement surrounding the company’s 40th season, right now, it’s probably the greed and paranoia of one 11th century Scot.
Centuries-old Shakespearean play Macbeth, directed by The Rep Producing Artistic Director Robert Hupp, opened Sept. 11, confidently mixing bloody revenge with a bit of spook.
From the first scene, Marianne Custer’s costume design and Robert Pickens’ wig design talents, complemented strategically by the stage’s stone-based set up, transport audience members back in time.
But the audience is also taken to a place more supernatural, more enchanted, more … ghouly. The three witches — played by Courtney Bennett, Heather Dupree and Joseph J. Menino — are androgynous in appearance, mystifying in voice. Their predictions kick-start Macbeth’s deadly quest to the throne, starting with the murder of King Duncan (Mitch Tebo) and eventually leading to the death of Banquo (Damian Thompson).
Macbeth (Michael Stewart Allen), drowning in guilt, begins to see things, ramble things and become increasingly removed from real-life situations. While his mind is plagued, he still has the throne to protect. Luckily, he’s got Lady Macbeth, one hell of an enabler, to keep him on the murderous track while she tends to guests and keeps an orderly reputation. Actress Jacqueline Correa’s portrayal of the ambitious Lady was captivating and invigorating — maybe even enough to have you consider your own try at the throne.
But there’s only so long until shame catches up with her, too.
The second half of the show is where the intensity truly builds and the audience gets to see more of Macduff (Seth D. Rabinowitz), whose family was murdered because of the King.
Although Shakespeare created Macbeth in a way that inspires sympathy, witty and lighthearted dialogue between Lady Macduff and her children — and the delivery by the actors — also ignites a sense of compassion for Macduff’s revenge.
The porter (Joseph J. Menino) excels as the drunken character, who gives comic relief from an otherwise stressful time of anticipation.
The Rep makes great use of its space, using areas not confined to the stage and making use of the set in intriguing, almost startling ways. Not as bloody as a modern-day violence-heavy TV show, the play does contain a significant amount of sword fighting, executed safely, thanks to fight director Geoffrey Kent.
Through all its layers, The Rep’s production of Macbeth might just encourage you to explore a sense of humanity not yet considered.
Macbeth runs through Sept. 27 at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. Tickets are $35-45, with $20 tickets available for students. For more information on The Rep’s version of the play, click here. For showtimes and more information, visit therep.org.