II. Play’s themes
III. This version
V. Set design
Shakespeare was originally performed entirely by men, according to the customs of the time. In this Seattle Rep adaptation the roles are reversed, and every player is a woman. The results are mixed, but nothing can prevent the power of the play’s themes from being delivered. It is set to run May 18 – June 17 are on sale now through the Seattle Rep Box Office at 206.443.2222 and online at SeattleRep.org.
The play poses the question of pursuit of power, and the corruption that overtakes one in such an attempt. The unique aspect of Macbeth pertains to his pursuit of power not being that of an entirely evil figure. The character begins as a good person, and only when his ambition to become king consumes him does he go down the path of a treacherous villain. That ambition is often negatively associated with women rather males, so the role reversal may occur to some as a natural change for the character. Here however, in the context of a cast of only women, it doesn’t alter the perspective of the character and actually takes a backseat to the fact that the cast is young and in a high school type era of life. That immaturity that many would possess at such an age is more central to the actions occurring than the fact that they are women at all.
Given that this is a classic of Shakespeare’s and it has likely worn its welcome out over time, this version, directed by Erica Schmidt, spices up the presentation by loosely framing itself as a retelling by students at a young girls school in the woods. The all female cast is an interesting twist on the traditional all male versions of old, and it works as far as that dimension would allow. Throughout the play the director included modern pop songs and selfie references to try to match the portrayal of the young girl cast element. A die hard Macbeth fanatic could find these distracting and out of place, however it helps add comedy and there’s a realization that makes it fun and enjoyable for both the audiences and actresses.
The women themselves though, are universally solid. Charlotte Schweiger holds the show together in the titular role, and as Macbeth, makes the transition from humble lord to savage, delusional king believable. As Macbeth’s trusted friend Banquo, Tamsen Glaser is an impressive supporting player. She almost steals the show upon becoming ghostly, including a memorable scene involving wine and blood.
Speaking of which, this show is not to be viewed by the faint hearted. The play is recommended to be viewed only by those of age sixteen or older, due to some scenes of graphic violence and simulated gore. I wouldn’t go that far personally, I’d say children of thirteen and up would be able to take the imagery, but each to their own. Point being it’s not a show about showing violence, it complements the story and is important to show for the dramatic elements to be sufficiently effective.
The set is a realistic looking wooded area with so much detail and personality it could be considered another character altogether. A beat up couch, an old tire, a discarded bathtub, and a small pool of real water are all used to creative effect throughout the show. There’s even a scene where real water falls from the ceiling to the stage floor as rain, and the scene of the actors really acting in a rainstorm is a sight to behold.
If you’re a Shakespeare fan, you won’t want to miss out. The play is given a fresh look with the school girl theme, the use of the set is inventive, and the text is as always for the Bard, provocative and eye opening. The show may be an old standby, but this production will intrigue you, and may leave you laughing and gasping a some of its surprises.