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

Peet’s Theatre

Helen Meyer of Meyer Sound and Susie Medak, Managing Director of the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, ceremoniously demonstrated a lightning storm to an invited audience today in their newly renovated thrust theatre.  This beloved 35-year-old stage, renamed Peet’s Theatre to honor an almost 50 year relationship with Peet’s Coffee, doesn’t look so different as much as it sounds different.  It now features the first North American installation of Meyer Sound’s Constellation Acoustic System for live, unamplified theatre.  Made up of 84 speakers, the new system creates a genius map of sound that can literally change the acoustics of the space instantaneously.

I look forward to their upcoming production of Aubergine, a Berkeley Rep commission, and how future sound designers use a system that can pan sounds through the room in intricate ways, as well as simulate the acoustics of the Grace Cathedral, as we heard today.  Other renovations include a skylight in the lobby, a larger box office, and a courtyard cafe with a mini-stage for after-show musical acts.

Peet’s Theatre Grand Opening is free and open to the public on Saturday, January 9, 2016 at noon-3pm.


Photo by Cheshire Isaacs