The Scottish play took a road trip to the Middle East during the New Paltz Theater Department’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.
Although the setting and modern-day time period were “non-traditional,” Director and Associate Professor of theater arts Paul Kassel paid homage to the timeless text by preserving the Shakespearean language.
After seeing the play, I very much understood Kassel’s reasoning behind setting the production in the Middle East. I thought the connection Kassel made to “Macbeth” and the Middle East, and his decision to alter the play accordingly, was completely genius. I think that linking current events to something as timeless as a Shakespearean play communicates just how much universal progress still needs to be made.
The actors’ ability to capture their characters was impressive. Even though I only understood about four words in the Shakespearean language spoken throughout the play, the actors became their parts so much that language comprehension — or lack thereof — didn’t matter.
Fourth-year theater performance major Stefan Brundage, who played Macbeth, acted exactly as he explained he would — stoic. At first I was taken aback by the almost apathy with which he portrayed his character, but then I realized this lack of hysteria is exactly how Macbeth is supposed to act.
I was extremely impressed with second-year theater performance major Shaquana Bell, who played the Porter. She acted as the production’s comic relief during the moments when the whole overthrowing the dictator thing got a little too heavy. She was hilarious, delivering witty one-liners that sent the audience into fits of laughter. With such a small part, she was able to do wonders.
Third-year theater performance major Mike O’Connor became the underdog to root for as Macduff. Even after losing all he had, he portrayed his character with a sustained strength and I found myself vying for his victory throughout the last fight scene.
And of course, there is Lady Macbeth. I believe Brundage put it best when he described third-year theater performance major Robin Epes’ depiction of this leading lady as “exquisite.” There is probably no better word to sum up the raw emotion and heart with which Epes delivered her performance.
From the intense glare on her face while squatting above a candle to the broken shell she became as the show progressed, Epes’ performance portrayed depth, soul and fragility. Tapping into the raw emotion it took to play a character with such malicious intent must have been frightening for Epes to experience, as it was frightening for me to watch. Her performance was incredible and I truly respect her work.
This adaptation of a timeless production may have been classified as “non-traditional,” but I see it as necessary. It is necessary to shed light onto a current revolution whose roots date back centuries. It is necessary to raise awareness of the repression that still continues through the art of performance, and it is more than necessary to take the time out to witness this incredible connection.