MacBeth featuring Frances McDormand

Shakespeare’s MacBeth plays at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre through April 10, with limited tickets still available. A supernatural horror play, populated by witches, ghosts and a King’s conscience that seesaws between treachery and guilt, this production deliciously delivers, steeped in haunted atmospherics. Dan Moses Schreier’s sound design keeps the audience on edge as Alex V. Nichols’ eerie video projections fall upon tall, textured sets designed by Douglas W. Schmidt.  Most of the play takes place at night, where adversaries gallop through old growth forest and Lady MacBeth sleepwalks her torment. The plot chronicles the unraveling of a kingdom, whose corrupt underpinnings and accursed chase for power reflect our own society’s political struggles in odd and discomforting ways.

This MacBeth offers a traditional interpretation, yet Berkeley flavored, with a bearded witch and a diverse cast. Daniel Sullivan directs it with a well-paced, deliberate hand and stages stunning large cast tableaus straight out of a 17th century painting. Frances McDormand brings an earthiness to Lady MacBeth but never quite rises to the fiendishness of the character. My personal favorite performances were the drunken porter, and the doctor who puzzles over Lady MacBeth’s “Out, out, damn spot!” trance, both small bits played by James Carpenter.

Photo by Kevin Berne

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