If being queen doesn’t work out for Lady Macbeth, played by Emily Vere Nicole, three names an indicator of any assassin, then she can always fall back on selling laundry detergent. “Out, damned spot! out, I say!”
Though, judging from Towson University’s production Macbeth, perhaps she’d be better cast selling tampons. “Make thick my blood,” she commands the spirits of evil. Denying nature, rarely a good idea in Shakespearian tragedy, she demands to be unsexed, that nothing in nature may stop her.
But it is a fight against nature that is at the heart of the play, and more often than not, it’s the women who end up on top. Literally at times. The men, time and again, have their manhood question. Seeing that they wear traditional Scottish kilt, should we Americans be surprised?
At the center of the story stands Macbeth, played by Matt Shea, himself as hoarse as the raven by the end of the show from madness, and his power-lustful wife.
Returning from battle, the newly named Thane of Cawdor, does as most soldiers do and straight to the bedroom they fly. Lady Macbeth is more aroused by her lust for power, though, than any satisfaction her husband may provide, and a denial of this natural want lay at the heart of her power.
While Macbeth may be the title of the play, it is a production of the periphery. More often than not, the driving force of intrigue onstage is not who is at the center, but who is on the edge, conniving or listening to the action at hand.
Women and servants were on the edge of society in Elizabethan England. Scotland has always lay on the edge of England.
“I have no spurs to prick the sides of my intent,” muses Macbeth. Don’t let the dresses fool you, it’s the women who are wearing the boots in this play.
Behind every stab-in-the-back murder -- and there are a lot of them -- lies a woman. Whether fair or foul, foul or fair, there may not be many of them, but these girls came to sex, raunch, and mix things up.
And like so much of Shakespeare’s work, Macbeth is not crafted for the old, who oftentimes find themselves the center of their time. It is a play for youth, as they live life on the edge with everything to gain and nothing to lose. The old age of Duncan (John Manglove) doesn’t stand a chance against these ambitious, fast-talking upshots.
The crafty Millennials have even found a way around Shakespearian language: present it with all the trappings of a twenty-first century theatre department. From squirting bloodpacks to projected videos, heads roll when the generation of instant information takes the stage.
It only makes sense. Why use words alone, when images and sound can create a thousand more? At little less than three hours, a contemporary audience can use all the help we can get.
The final line before intermission, “We are but young in deed,” proves Shakespeare a skilled equivocator. I didn’t know what “equivocator” meant until I Googled it at the barking command of Seyton (William McHattie). The Cerberus of Macbeth’s gate, he is a go-between, a character on the periphery, able to speak both in and out of his time.
Always swooping and diving from the edge, the Witches (Maddie Hicks, Caitlin Joseph, Heather Peacock), under the coaching of Jenny Hale, precede whatever carrion ambition’s deadly wake leaves behind. They move like the fog that so often blinds the characters from their vaulting ambition.
These witches are sexy, and they know it. In Julie Heneghan’s costumes, their leggings contrast the ragged, bulky tops, showing the audience that these spirits mean to move.
The only man, Banquo, who dare try upstage them? Dead before intermission.
When Macduff’s family is murdered (and we do get to see it), it is the Witches who spirit them offstage.
The character who ultimately holds some of the greatest power, though, isn’t even onstage. Stationed in the pit, between the audience and stage, percussionist Corey Hewitt’s accents, underscores, and crescendos help decipher the Shakespearian language.
At times, the noise rises to the level of incomprehensible cacophony, infected be the air, and language seems to no longer matter. There remains only music, full of sound and fury.
Ultimately, the undoing of Macbeth comes from the periphery. Possessing the judgment to deny his vaulting ambition, Macbeth succumbs to the outer forces at work on him, and he decays from the interior.
Says the Doctor (Jon Dallas), “Therein the patient / Must minister to himself.” But Macbeth’s core is now rotten, and only the skin of this apple remains alluring.