DRAPER — Draper Historic Theatre and Lamplight Theatre Company have teamed together to present the tragic tale of Macbeth, the story of the power-hungry man and his wife who are willing to do whatever it takes to be king, against a backdrop of post-apocalyptic, post-nuclear survival through the imagination of director Eldon B. Randall.
I am no stranger to the imaginative worlds that the public domain status of Shakespeare‘s works has lead to, but this version was new and intriguing to my senses. The idea of the choices Macbeth makes set under a backdrop of world destruction is certainly innovative, so I thought it would be, if nothing else, an intriguing night of theatre.
As I entered the Draper Historic Theatre, the scenic design by Randall himself appeared to be an abandoned auto yard damaged by nuclear fallout, with lights flickering and techno music eerily playing in the background. As the show began, a momentary spotlight hovered over the different clans, something that was echoed at the end with a specific haunting difference that I appreciated as a part of an overall lighting design choice by Randall that gave the show the post-apocalyptic feel while maintaining the Shakespearean feel.
The post-apocalyptic setting allowed for imaginative costume design by Bailey Loveless, with steampunk gas masks, eye patch elements, and a bit of grunge mismatched with some Scottish flare, all mixed in an appropriate whatever-clothes-you-can-find, post-apocalyptic way. The costumes were one of the strongest elements of the show.
The casting of Timothy Jeffryes as Macbeth and of Rebecca Lea McCarthy as Lady MacBeth was strong choice in this production. I was especially enamored with McCarthy in the moment of her most famed speech as she has reached her highest levels of regret and is intensely trying to wash off her levels of shame from her hands. Her performance was prodigious and memorable. The trajectory of Macbeth’s rise to power and subsequent fall was a fascinating journey through Jeffryes’s characterization. Jeffryes’s ability to portray fear and confidence as the prophecies of the weird sisters began to come true was impressive.
Another cast standout was Loveless as Macduff. Gender neutral casting is something that comes up often in modern Shakespeare productions. I have seen some amazing choices and some not-so-good choices, so when I saw some of the listings in the program, I was a little apprehensive about how this production would be executed. However, the performance by Loveless not only eased my concerns, but it also opened my mind to new possibilities of how roles can be interpreted. When Macduff is informed of the loss of her family, she recites a speech that discusses the sharing of emotions and makes some distinct points about the difference of emotional response between women and men. The way Loveless played the dichotomy was flawless.
Banquo, played by Rebekah Williamson, was another fascinating casting choice. Williamson played well the friend who suddenly starts to suspect foul play, and I was extremely impressed with the haunting figure she carried throughout the show after the tragedy of her own story struck.
Perhaps the strongest praise I can give is the overall experience of the show. Lamplight’s Macbeth runs 90 minutes without an intermission, and I was enthralled from beginning to end. I have seen full professional productions that were less polished and less well executed. For the price and production quality, this show may be one of the best ways to start off the fall theatre season in the Salt Lake Valley.