Awake! Awake! Ring the alarm bell! Murder! Treason!
“Game of Thrones”?
Better still, ‘tis “Macbeth,” Shakespeare’s tragedy of fate, free will and political ambition. The Southern Shakespeare Company’s gripping performance is the centerpiece of an exciting weekend of Renaissance-themed entertainment.
“The Scottish Play” — as it is known due to a supposed ancient curse on those who say the name of the play aloud — has been performed countless times since the early 17th century. “Macbeth” is the Bard’s shortest tragedy, but it packs plenty of intrigue, murder and moral takeaways into its five acts — and this traditional re-telling by director James Alexander Bond keeps the timing tight, with brief breaks between scenes.
As the sun sets, the sounds of Cascades Park — talking, laughter, rolling wheels — give way to a trio of witches chanting in the wind and the knell of alarms and late night knocking. For a few brief moments mid-play, the frogs and crickets harmonized with an owl, and stage lighting caught flitting moths, turning them to drifting sparks from a cauldron’s fire.
Fresh from military victories abroad, Macbeth (veteran stage and screen actor Marc Singer) and Banquo (Dan Kahn, who played “Macbeth” in the recent Mickee Faust production) return home to Scotland.
During their journey, they meet a trio of witches (Patricia Carrico, Miriam Dady and Katherine M. Ruiz) who share three prophecies of wealth and power with the conquering heroes.
Macbeth, they foretell, will be named Thane of Cawdor (a sort of high-ranking lord) and later, King of Scotland. Banquo won’t be king himself, but will father future generations of kings.
Shortly after this encounter, two men from the kingdom come bearing the eerie news that Macbeth has, in fact, been named Thane of Cawdor for his heroism on the battlefield.
Convinced, Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth (Laura Johnson) decide to hasten the second prophecy and murder the king (Duncan Hoehn).
Singer, as Macbeth, a highly accomplished actor, expertly walks the line of stability before becoming completely consumed with guilt. His anguish washes over the audience as he cries out in repentance.
Laura Johnson is enthralling as Lady Macbeth. Her descent into madness powerfully signals the beginning of the end of their time in power.
It’s not all wailing and gnashing of teeth, though. There’s also plenty of action, with lots of skilled swordplay by fight choreographer Jason Paul Tate, who also directed last year’s energetic clashes in “Romeo and Juliet.”
And though Singer may no longer be the young swashbuckler we remember from the big screen’s “Beastmaster,” he still looks at home swinging a sword, and he moves with grace and skill through multiple fight sequences. He’s especially convincing with a dagger.
The inventive music and sound design by Ben Gunter and Stephen Hodges creates a rich backdrop for the actors. A small orchestra — including trumpet, flute and hurdy-gurdy – brings the Elizabethan atmosphere to life. Music rises and falls with the mood of scenes. Be sure to steal a peek at the musicians, building the atmosphere and creating sound effects live using a string drum, thunder tube and other instruments.
Tallahassee’s Cascades Park is the perfect host to another year of this springtime tradition. (Don’t forget sunglasses and bug spray to maximize your experience.)
And come early Friday and Saturday to enjoy the 5:45 p.m. short production of “The Scottish Play” by the Southern Shakespeare’s “Bardlings” troupe, and to soak in Renaissance fun and flavors.
If You Go
What: Southern Shakespeare Company presents “Macbeth”
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Saturday’s performance will be ASL interpreted.
Where: Cascades Park Amphitheater
Note: Some scenes may be too intense for young children. Consider the production PG-13.