Ashland Theater Review: Macbeth

Jul 23, 2019

Danforth Comins (Macbeth)
Credit Jenny Graham / Oregon Shakespeare Festival

No matter how many times you’ve seen “Macbeth,” it’s time to see it again at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. This astonishing production is currently playing at the Allen Elizabethan Theatre, but later in the summer it may move indoors if the air is smoky.

Brilliantly directed by Jose Luis Valenzuela, Shakespeare’s Scottish play is sexy, scary and sad. Visually it’s thrilling, with lighting in a range of intense colors. At times a character seems bathed in a saturated green or orange that doesn’t touch the rest of the stage.

All of the acting is excellent, but Danforth Comins as Macbeth, Amy Kim Waschke as his wife, and Chris Butler as a heartbroken Macduff are extraordinary.

The play suggests that Macbeth’s lack of offspring is one reason why  this upright general and his gracious lady stray from the honorable path and commit multiple murders. Thinking they are fulfilling a prophecy made by the unearthly Weird Sisters, they mindlessly condemn themselves to hell.

The first act is fascinating right from the start. Those Weird Sisters shriek and moan in spine-tingling discord. Macbeth, encouraged by his loving wife, loses no time in knocking off his competition, starting with the king and including his friend Banquo, who returns as a terrifying ghost.

After intermission the action grows even more shocking. It’s rare to see such a relentless flow of unsettling events. First, the cauldron scene is the most original I have ever witnessed. Then, Lady Macbeth transforms into a pathetically broken madwoman. And finally, the mortal battle between Macbeth and Macduff looks so real it seems they might truly cause injury. You’ll hardly have time to catch your breath and choke back your tears.

This is Dorothy Velasco with KLCC’s Ashland Theater Review