All reviews are written by Cappies student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.
Yena Seo, a student at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology , reviews Washington and Lee High School’s ‘Macbeth as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.
Men have lusted for power for millennia, driven by greed and the desire for control, command and conquest. But what lengths do some people go to achieve authority? In an enthralling production of Macbeth, Washington-Lee High School chronicled one man’s pursuit for absolute power and his eventual descent into madness, demonstrating just how corrosive power can be.
Considered to be William Shakespeare’s most sinister play, Macbeth follows the transformation of Macbeth, the Thane of Glamis, from a virtuous and noble man to a deceitful and wicked king. After a trio of witches called the Weird Sisters approaches Macbeth to foretell his kingship, he commences a series of murders to secure his ascent to the throne, and falls into a downward spiral of paranoia and guilt from his traitorous actions.
Washington-Lee put its own creative twist on Macbeth by transporting audience members from the usual medieval Scotland setting to a tribal location. Influenced by the Shang Dynasty, Seminole Indians and the Aztecs, among others, tribal elements were integrated through makeup, costumes and set pieces, giving the well-known tale a unique feel. Additionally, the Weird Sisters were altered from being mere ministers of fate to the vengeful kin of a clan brutally murdered by Macbeth and his warriors, allowing the meddlesome witches to have personal motivation behind Macbeth’s doom. Assistant director and dramaturge Ariel Pizzamiglio maturely handled these changes as she skillfully staged the tribal rituals and ceremonies in the production and, along with technical director Claire Seaton, shaped the technical elements into a cohesive whole.
Jeffrey Warren imbued the eponymous character of Macbeth with a combination of ardor and desperation, providing levels of complexity to his demanding role. Warren’s chemistry with leading lady Alicia Hartz was impeccable, containing moments of both icy detachment and genuine concern, and both actors demonstrated true mastery of the Shakespearean language. Hartz’s phenomenal performance as the ruthless Lady Macbeth was heightened through her remarkable emotional range as she delivered the perfect balance of élan and delusion.
Supporting actors stood out from among the cast, carrying the production with fantastic intensity and energy. Danny Sharp brought high esprit to his portrayal of Macbeth’s best friend Banquo until his untimely death, after which he returned as a haunting ghost, terrifying both Macbeth and audience members alike. Max Ferlauto was delightful and hilarious as the drunken Porter, providing commendable comedic relief in a heavy drama. The Weird Sisters, played by Bailey Kowalski, Carly Greenfield and Katie Humphries, created a uniform ensemble while maintaining individual personalities, their physicality and dialects displaying true commitment to character as they brought Macbeth down to his eventual fate.
The show’s technical elements brilliantly established the tribal background for the actors. Symbols and numbers were painted on set pieces such as a step pyramid, while the copious amounts of blood used in the production appeared terrifyingly realistic. Attention to detail was evident in the makeup and costuming, each character’s colors and marks representing some kind of moral or meaning. Sound and music enhanced the show’s tribal qualities, while lighting was expertly executed, most notably when creating an eerie silhouette of the Weird Sisters’ influence on Macbeth.
While Macbeth is known in many theater circles as a cursed show, one never to be mentioned by name, Washington-Lee High School’s production was anything but. Through admirable performances and earnest execution, Washington-Lee’s talented cast and crew succeeded in carrying out Shakespeare’s classic tale of murder, madness and mayhem in their magnificent production of Macbeth.