I wish I could like this production more. Clearly well-intentioned and sincerely played, it still did not touch the center of the fearsome verse. Betsy Holt as Lady Macbeth was eloquent, but did not convince me she would kill a baby. The charismatic Gino Costabile as Macbeth fell into shouting too often and not only in the last moments of the play. The witches just were not scary, with the exception of Myka Plunkett whose steady intensity showed the real way into the play. Should not Macbeth be as perplexed by the language coming out of his mouth as we are? Can anyone tell what the “pity bestriding the blast” lines mean, or “she should have died hereafter,” for that matter? It is not only the witches who speak a fabricated English (possibly written by Middleton), but Macbeth also. We hear early in the play, “the all hail hereafter.” Very strange, and it is only the beginning. The ever-present ingredient in the language of this play is confusion, even obfuscation. It approaches nonsense in several passages in the play. The play can be seen as a delirium, lurid, uncanny– and most importantly, fearsome.
Two excellent actors and veterans with the Company, Christine Dekker and Doug Ryan, contributed mightily to the performance. Ms. Dekker, in multiple roles, kept my interest in each, and even illuminated her brief roles in ways I have not seen before. It was excellent to hear most of the lines of Hecate (this verse almost certainly by Middleton) in her exchanges with the witches. It is almost impossible to go through the entire ingredient list of the witches’ potion and keep it scary. Perhaps it wasn’t intended to be. Perhaps there has been too much editorial zeal to assign the potentially risible parts of the witches’ time on stage to a poet other than Shakespeare. I could easily do without them. There must be something terrifying in the witches. Their activities are not fun. There is a strong emphasis on body parts in “Macbeth”. Everything from a sailor’s thumb, to the constant reference to blood, right through Lady Macbeth’s sleep-walking scene. This same scene was Ms. Holt’s strongest moment. It was subdued, wholly disconnected from reality, almost as if she had already died and was speaking after the fact. I appreciate the director’s willingness to use young actors for the protagonists, but for me the marriage seems an older one, and the connection between the two destructively physical from the start, made even more intense by constant separation. The intensity between them is compulsive. Even Lady Macbeth realizes in the banquet scene that it is better to be the murdered than the murderer. Macbeth says he can no longer sleep, but did he ever? These things are difficult for young actors, and these two were good young actors.
Doug Ryan has given me constant pleasure and instruction with this Company for years. An excellent physical actor and comedian, he deftly finds the right limit to his extremity and keeps it just there, always teasing us that it may go over the top. We sit in an expectation that is full of delight, never quite satiated. There is a humbleness in his acting that is very moving, and leaves an open space around his characters that we fill in. I always see his name on the playbill with joy.
This is in no way meant to detract from the excellence and the questing nature of John Hadden’s Hubbard Hall Company—may they continue to thrive. This is only one man’s opinion.