MACBETH (Quintessence): Onstage magic

Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble. Cool it with a baboon’s blood, then the charm is firm and good.

Macbeth, the most brutal of Shakespeare’s plays, is beautifully, chillingly on stage at Quintessence. There’s so much spilled blood that the stage needed to be scrubbed during intermission. Quintessence founder and el primo director, Alex Burns, writes about Macbeth: “So potent are the spirits and spells cast in this play written over 400 years ago, that if you say Macbeth in the theatre today, you must participate in a cleansing ritual: “Leave the theatre, turn three times, spit over your left shoulder, then curse… or say Macbeth three times.” He reveals that seeing Macbeth in London was the catalyst for him to found Quintessence “to be able to create that magic on stage.”

The all male cast takes on all roles, including Lady Macbeth, Lady MacDuff, and three loud creepy Weird Sisters– witches who dance a sinuous and spooky dance. A delightful little boy plays Banquo’s son and also MacDuff’s son.

A grim and bloody play requires comic relief, and it is supplied by the Porter at Macbeth’s castle. In a scene that refers to Henry Garnet, a Jesuit priest involved in the 1605 Gunpowder Plot, Macbeth’s Porter pulls the audience into the gag to play along with his very funny performance. The Porter’s speech stands as a brilliant corollary to the gravedigger scene in Hamlet. But Macbeth is not all fun. Typical of Elizabethan theater, by the end the stage has been littered with bodies.

Modern words are thrown into the mix, for instance: “Tuesday Night’s barbeque night,” and “slam dunk.” I thought that the director had also thrown in the word, “metaphysical.” But no. Shakespeare wrote that one.

Just one little problem: Ultra bright white lights intended to provide backlighting shine right into the audience’s eyes. Other than that, this show is great. Direction, acting, staging, costumes—everything is first rate. I doubt that I’ll ever see another Macbeth that’s done as well as this one.

[Quintessence Theatre Group, 7137 Germantown Ave] March 14-April 21, 2024.

The Cast: Owen Corey, Lee Thomas Cortopassi, Jamison Foreman, Corneilus Franklin, Joshua Kachnycz, Vaughn Meccod, Daniel Miller, River Moore, Christopher Patrick Mullen, Scott Parkinson, Ken Sandberg, Zachary Valdez

Approximately three hours with one intermission

March 14- April 21, 2024

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