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Tragedy Of Macbeth Review

John Dillon, Arts and Entertainment Editor

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The show was late. That was my first impression of College of the Sequoias’ “The Tragedy of Macbeth”. When I finally took my seat, I chalked up the wait time to opening night jitters or final touches on the set, and I’m glad I did.

 

“Macbeth” sees the formation of a new Seal Team Six for a modern era. The soldiers of SCOT6 are hired to suppress the Hecate cartel with roots in Mexico, and the show immediately drops you into a fog-filled warehouse where the treacherous MacDonwald, a traitor, is supposedly hiding. It’s almost like a scene out of a video game

 

When Macbeth kills MacDonwald, he is promoted. Before he leaves the warehouse, he is told by three witches that he would become king as well. When Macbeth tells his wife, she comes up with a plot to help her husband advance by murdering the leader of SCOT6.

 

Brittney Burris, as Lady Macbeth delivers the famous “unsex me here” soliloquy phenomenally. She digs deep and taps into the raw, selfish ambition of Lady Macbeth and lays it flat out on the stage. You can almost hear demons fiendishly laughing when she calls upon the devils in hell to take her bodily fluids and trade them for poison.

 

The arc of Macbeth is one of the most interesting aspects of the show. The escalation during the scene where he kills Duncan, his commanding officer, is case-in-point. He initially was going to poison the king in his sleep, but Duncan wakes up. After a struggle, Macbeth stabs Duncan in the throat with the needle. Now, he’s left with a brutal murder instead of a planned soothing death.

 

The next death in the show still gives me chills just thinking about it. Macbeth’s arc brings him to murder his best friend, Banquo. He has two of his lieutenants waterboard Banquo, which shows the power Macbeth has amassed. At first, with Duncan, he killed him with his own hands and so quickly, he distances himself and puts out a hit on his best friend to be carried out by his subordinates. This scene drives home the coldness of Macbeth so deeply, that it feels like you’re watching a different person especially as the drums kick in from “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin as Macbeth is putting on his army uniform studded with honors and medals while Banquo is being slowly drowned behind him.

 

The film was used well. I was impressed with the real-life and pre-shot scene sync. Though the audience knows the film was pre-shot, when Macbeth goes into the back room to kill Duncan,, that acknowledgement doesn’t bring you out of the moment. It truly feels like you’re watching every jump, every scare, and every beat of the fight with Lady Macbeth.

 

When the film arrives in-between scenes, it gives you a break from the emotional intensity of the stage. The news channel provides exposition and vignettes both to introduce the world of the adaptation in the beginning and to give the characters a chance to explain their inner motives in the later acts.

 

One of my criticisms with the film was the way the news was employed in the last parts of the show. I loved the beginning because it provided the reasons for this world to exist. La Llorona is a drug that the Mexican cartel Hecate pushes in America. It makes people bleed from the eyes and act out. This and the whole SCOT6 team are introduced via the news clips. However, after the first fourth of the show, the news sort of falls flat. This is due in part to the anchor, Jenny Powers, speaking in verse.

 

That brought me right out of the show. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief far enough to believe that everyone in this world speaks verse. The news is reporting to real people, so how can they do that if the newscaster speaks Shakespearean iambic pentameter unless everyone else in this world also speaks verse. I understand why it was written, though. In most other versions of “Macbeth”, the show has a chorus or a town crier that delivers the news to the people both of the audience and of the kingdom and they speak in verse. It’s easier then to suspend disbelief because you’re placed in 11th-century Scotland where it’s easy for 21st-century folks to imagine that they spoke the way Shakespeare writes. In this modern adaptation, however, it doesn’t make sense.

 

Everything else was fantastic. The witches in their famous “double, double, toil and trouble” scene were purely terrifying. The woman sitting next to me was enthralled and leaned forward, keen not to miss a beat, while the woman sitting next to her was sunk as far back into her seat as she could go. The devil women’s eyes pored unblinking past the screen and into the depths of the audience.

 

Mason Garcia, who played Macbeth, was superb. His superfluous voice carried the message clearly to the audience like a blanket of velvet gently flowing in a breeze. He perfectly captured Macbeth’s change from anxious commanding officer to tyrannical unstable king and fall from grace.

 

The main takeaway from the show is the dangers of ambition. Throughout the show, the themes of protecting oneself from others is apparent. The repeated line “we must take care of our own” has some clout in modern day society. During the play, you also see Macbeth struggle with trying to do the right thing for his group and trying to keep up his honor. The message is very applicable to contemporary American politics especially with the battle on both sides of the aisle to choose party over country.

 

All in all, this is one of the finest shows COS has performed in a while, and I’m looking forward to seeing this magnitude of a performance from them again, hopefully sometime in the near future.

 

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Tragedy Of Macbeth Review