Theatre Review: PCPA’s “Macbeth” Is a Must-See

March 4, 2010


So . . . many a live production aims to shower its audience with wondrous sights and sounds, but few directors prove capable of shaping the resulting barrage into a fluent, coherent and fascinating theatrical experience.

In the case of Macbeth, currently playing at PCPA Theaterfest in Santa Maria, director Patricia M. Troxel has forged an amazing amalgam that educates and inspires even as it entertains. This production is not to be missed.

Every high school student past and present who has ever suffered through Shakespeare on the page should see this bit of Shakespeare on the stage. Even if some of the Bard’s potent words and phrases remain cryptic to this generation’s texters, Troxel so richly illuminates the tragic path that leads her Macbeth and his Lady to their demise that it is impossible not to understand the fear, the ambition, the insanity that ultimately unfolds in this production.

All the elements of staging – isolating yet hauntingly diluted lighting, costumes and crowns of rough threads and furs and metals, a set that reaches out to encompass the audience into its forest of towering trees and earthbound roots, sound that incorporates human shrieks as well as rattles and chains and cymbals and drums, and much much more – come together into a natural and powerful creation that bears the human performers along in the telling of the tale.

And it is this bodily incorporation of the actors, rather than the usual expected emphasis on their words, that sets this telling apart. This intricate weaving of human action – and human frailty in the face of its consequences – is the work of many artists ultimately brought together by a director who knows what she is doing. These artists include Dave Nofsinger (scenic designer), Frederick P. Deeben (costume designer), Jennifer “Z” Zornow (lighting designer), and Elisabeth Rebel (sound designer).

Their collaboration makes every actor on stage an integral part of the production, beginning with the Wyrd Sisters (Peter S. Hadres, Jazmine Thompson and Melany Juhl), who hover in the trees and emerge from the rocks and creep and crawl around the set, so merging with it that on occasion they literally become part of it. The trio attends many of the moments wherein Macbeth (a versatile Corey Jones) makes his fretful and fateful decisions, and they are present when Lady Macbeth (a solid but strangely withdrawn Elizabeth Stuart) sleepwalks her way into madness.

The more than 30 supporting cast members create entertaining and carefully-crafted crowd scenes of celebration (utilizing a most unusual banquet table) and of war (utilizing the skillful fight direction of Mark Booher).

The decision to set the production in “authentic” ninth and tenth century Scotland is visually appealing and reflects the clear intent of all associated with this production to make it a one-of-a-kind event for Central Coast audiences. The decision, however, to freeze the action on stage during some of the familiar monologues is the only discordant note. Pausing the flow allows attention to be paid, but in a way that distracts from the natural and enjoyable rhythm of the production as a whole.

In the “Behind the Scenes” department, the exceptional attention to detail demonstrated by production staff members in sound (on-stage musician Robert B. Pollard, Kimberly Bernard), wardrobe (supervisor Chantal Nadeau, Tamara Chambers, Anne Guynn, Derek Hercs, Mara Wolff) and lighting (master electrician Tamar Geist, Billy Cortez, Ian Corcoran, Steven Edmonston, Garrett Marshall) is to be commended for making this such a memorable production of Macbeth.

There’s still time to catch the show, which runs through March 7. Visit the CalCoastNews Community Event Calendar for details.