When a drunken porter enters midway through the Fort Lewis College production of Macbeth," pay attention. It's a rare
comic moment in one of Shakespeare's darkest works. Played by Miles Batchelder as a loopy servant in casual Friday
clothes, the inebriated doorman hears knocking and wonders who is there. Listen and you may catch the world's first
Comic relief is common in other Shakespearean tragedies, but it's rare in Macbeth," a riveting classic about unchecked
ambition, colossal deceit, and serial killing.
Director Ginny Davis has pared down Shakespeare's text to make the Scottish play" manageable for college players.
Originally five long acts with multiple scenes, Macbeth" has been reshaped into two acts with scenes that flow easily
into each other like rapids on the River Styx. Still, by today's short-attention standards, Act I is longish, an hour
and 15 minutes. Act II is swift and concise - about 45 minutes.
Davis has also trimmed an unwieldy original cast of over 40 to 24 players. She's compressed a few roles. Batchelder,for example, serves as messenger, porter, et al.
On a spare set designed by Nathan Lee, the strange and horrific tale of the deranged general-who-would-be-king unfolds.
A huge circular shield carries Macbeth's imprimatur and then a sequence of photographic projections - forest, castle,ruins. The shield also serves as the site of various apparitions as Macbeth's madness deepens. Jane Gould's imaginative
costuming blends contemporary dress with kilts and a medieval military look, studded with biker boots and oddities like
Macbeth's plaid pajamas. The visuals work, especially the Goth witches who slither on and off stage in ragged black
mini dresses, feathers, dreadlocks, tights, fishnet, and tattoos. In contrast, Macbeth's key assassin (Shanti Johnson)
walks straight out of a James Bond film in thigh boots and a short belted coat with revolver neatly tucked behind. With
minimalist music by Philip Glass and Lady Gaga, to name two styles, the sound design serves the drama as much as sleek
lighting cues that effortlessly support action or interior monologues.
Director Davis uses the witches an evil through line. They begin the tale with the now famous question: When shall we
three meet again. In thunder, lightning, or in rain?" Then throughout the production, the witches crawl or cackle as a
Greek chorus. Performed by Natalie Benally, Alyse Neubert, and Mohriah James, with Mary Quinn as Hecate, they are
eerily realized in voice and movement.
From his genial days as a successful general to a tormented and crazed killer, Patrick Wiabel ably delivers a mercurial
Macbeth. The actor has matured over his years at Fort Lewis, and his voice has achieved a rich baritone patina.
Wiabel's excellent line readings are clearly the result of preparation and solid vocal training. Erin O'Connor brings a
cool calculation to Lady Macbeth as she manipulates her husband to perform unspeakable deeds. Due to the play's
structure, her descent into madness is more abrupt than Macbeth's. And fear not, most of the murders or suicides take
place off stage. Thank you, Shakespeare.
Davis's supporting cast ranges from experienced student actors to newcomers. Dress rehearsal right after spring break
was a little sketchy, but only a few lines were lost or scrambled. Projection could be heightened among the secondary
characters, but no lines disappeared because of inarticulation. Hours of speech and diction lessons have paid off, and
the students are to be commended for adding a difficult Shakespearean text to their experience.
Davis has put this classic through a horror genre sieve and it works.
Do yourself a favor, however, read a plot summary before seeing Macbeth."
Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic. Reach her at email@example.com.