By William Gupton
In a dramatic end to an incredible season, the Willamette Theatre Department’s production of “Macbeth” opened to a thrilling start. The Theatre Department closed out their season with one of Shakespeare’s greatest works: a play filled with tension, extreme dramatic buildups and political conflicts that leads to an epic and satisfying conclusion.
The set for the show was beyond spectacular. The set designer, Christopher Harris, and the stage team put together a brilliant stage. This includes two grand retractable staircases on either side that swing out diagonally, curtains of wooden planks that could move and cover various parts of either side of the stage, and an upper level balcony that was often used to add higher levels and dimensions to the scenes. Following their typical style of the black box theatre and the Shakespearean tradition of minimal set pieces, the stage featured little else in terms of set pieces, leaving most of the space blank. However, because of the well designed and functional set that was in place, nothing was left wanting for the stage itself.
The costumes, designed by Bobby Brewer-Wallin, were also exquisite and well done. Particularly notable costumes included Duncan’s kingly robes, Macbeth’s royal costume (as well as his armor), Lady Macbeth’s gown and Malcolm’s robes. All of these — and all of the costumes in general — were highly effective and pleasing to the eye.
Next, and arguably most exciting about the show, was the overall direction and fight choreography. The show features a number of intense weapon to weapon combat scenes which were brilliant and thrilling to watch. I recall seeing multiple audience members jump back in their front row seats as the fight drew near them. The scenes featuring combat are brilliant and gripping, as well as terrifying and powerful, and the actors execute them phenomenally.
Lastly, the show featured an incredible cast of many of Willamette’s finest, headlined by graduating seniors Mary Rose Brannick as Lady Macbeth and Taylor Jacobs as Macbeth himself, both of whom delivered expert performances as the leads. As both Macduff and Duncan, William Forkin also brings in an all-star performance as the Macbeths’ opposition.
However, the standout stars of the supporting actors were the three witches (played by Abbi Manoucheri, Rielly Resnick and Hannah Levinson) who are terrifying, magical and powerful in their roles; they truly sell this world of Macbeth as one that may seem like our own, but is also filled with powerful and mysterious supernatural forces, bringing the whole show together.
Although the leads had the most lines, the supporting cast should not be left unthanked, as each member features shining moments in their roles: Dawn-Hunter Strobel captures the innocence of young Macduff and builds the tension in this scene, Will Bremer concludes the show with a truly regal final monologue, Alex Gordon brings Banquo to center stage as Macbeth’s ambitions begin to flare up, Will Kingscott provides some much needed and well delivered humor as the porter, Jordan Freed ties much of the show together, Jenny Salwitz brings nobility and strength to both Lennox and Lady Macduff and Dylan McCombs highlights the terror of the Macbeth’s as their doctor.
Combined, this cast and crew expertly brought Shakespeare to life and made this production one worth seeing, going down as my favorite of Willamette Theatre Department’s 2016-2017 season.