Also worthy of high praise is Kate Homan. Firstly, her Lady MacDuff was primal and beautiful. Her performance of a woman who witnesses her world coming to end was real and elicited genuine pathos. Secondly, this woman portrayed the normally male Porter. This did not once feel shoehorned; she made the part seem like it was written for a woman. Instead of the traditional drunken, slovenly buffoon, her Porter was an exhausted, apathetic domestic who made delightful use of a midnight snack in her single but impacting scene. This was another boon to the performance—sprinkled about the story were droll bits of stage business to keep things grounded, natural, and frequently charming. In one of the typical Shakespearean background-characters-discuss-what’s-happening scenes, what could have been a plain conversation by a couple just standing in place became a cozy morning conversation over a quick breakfast before time to go to work.
These little moments are almost always a welcome way to keep a show zipping along and to help the audience feel engulfed by the world of the play, especially in the case of one such as this presented with minimal set pieces. Regrettably, I must opine that the set itself was poorly conceived and rather awkward looking; particularly the conspicuous picnic table on stage throughout the first act but ignored until the final scene before the intermission. The faux stained-glass centerpiece also felt holistically out of place. It worked in relation to the supernatural elements of the play, specifically against the transformation of the weird sisters into nuns, but these aspects were subdued for this interpretation set against the optimism of the early nineteen fifties. The nuns (who were perhaps inspired by the nurses from Rupert Goold’s production of MacBeth starring Patrick Stewart) are unfortunately rather dull. Director Catherine Cardwell’s notes refer to them as stoic, and they certainly fulfilled that direction. This was very nearly effective, as the trio bordered on becoming creepy in their monotonous presentation, but in the end, it just felt like a waste of three terribly fun characters. It is unfortunate that one of the most powerful people in the show also suffers from this sort of stuffy portrayal.
Elysia Rohn’s Lady MacBeth was probably supposed to come off as reserved and calculating, but she fell flat. Unlike Stonerock’s depth through subtlety, Rohn’s performance felt like it was lacking the drive behind the power-hungry insipient queen. This is ever more apparent in MacBeth, himself, played by Thomas Cardwell. Do not be mistaken; Mr. Cardwell delivered a very competent performance—every motivation was understandable, every phrase was spoken with comprehension and clarity—but his delivery felt more like he was delivering an excellent reading of audio book version of the script. It was… academic. Mr. Cardwell did, however, make excellent use of the comic potential in his character. Frequently MacBeth was loveable and charismatic, but I rarely felt any passion or truth behind his delivery for the rest of the tragedy. Once the proverbial peat hit the fan in the second act, it looked like we might see the lid come off the harried thane; but by the time of the “sound and fury” monologue, it became evident that this would not come to fruition: MacBeth seemed barely piqued by the news of his beloved’s death. This is not so in the case Bradford Reilly’s MacDuff. Reilly comes across as a bit of a mild-mannered milquetoast, thin and sweetly spoken; but when he is faced with the news of the massacre of his family, he becomes a wounded animal: in agony, vulnerable, yet profoundly dangerous. Reilly also choreographed the fights, and they were exquisite. In spite of Reilly’s very threatening assault scenes, I was pleased to see the murderers of the play interpreted with great humor, the leader of which was played by Matt Anderson. Anderson also portrayed Duncan, with which he did a fine job, but his youthful visage could have perhaps used some age; but it was his turn as one of MacBeth’s lackeys where he truly shined as a delightful, child-murdering scamp. Lesser characters such as these compensate for the titular royals, making for an enjoyable experience.