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Until Birnam Wood Comes to Low: Bwog Reviews KCST’s “Macbeth”

Well if it's cool enough to have its own geotag...

Well if it’s cool enough to have its own geotag…

Even with finals quickly approaching, Staff Writer and avid Shakespearian-theatergoer Jessa Nootbaar took a few hours out of her Thursday night to walk around Columbia, following KCST’s spring show production of “Macbeth.” Here are her thoughts on last night’s performance of the bloody rise and fall of the Scotsman himself.

Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” (or, “the Scottish play,” for those still too superstitious to say the name) is a classic story following the downfall of a man too ambitious and power-hungry for his own good. The play opens as the titular character, Macbeth, and his companion Banquo return from battle, where they stumble upon three witches, the Weird Sisters, who predict greatness and power for both Macbeth and Banquo’s sons. These predictions begin to come true as Macbeth is granted new titles of nobility, but he and his wife feel that they must take matters into their own hands to ensure that he will become king, as the witches divined. They murder King Duncan, thus beginning a string of bloody killings.

I had seen many renditions of the tragedy before last night, but KCST’s travelling play was a wholly new interpretation on the established classic. The audience began the night on Low Plaza but were led by the ensemble from location to location, where actors waited, illuminated in the night. The occasional student wandered into a scene, only to look up from their phone with an expression of total confusion, having found themselves surrounded by oddly-dressed students chanting and waving around metal pipes. The student would scurry away, and the audience would laugh. (As a note for students: should you run into “Macbeth” during tonight’s or tomorrow night’s performance, please be quiet and respectful as you pass by, as the actors do not have mics.)

The frequent change of scenery over the course of the performance was refreshing, but it presented a few logistical problems in its execution. It was necessary to walk quickly between locations or else risk a nice spot to sit. If you were towards the back of the group, the scene might have already begun by the time you arrived, forcing you to stand, out of earshot for the scene, for a period of time. Some actors projected well. Others did not, which took away from the effect of the performance as a whole. It was also fairly chilly last night (we would recommend bringing a blanket and gloves for future performance), and I missed comfortable and climate-controlled theater seats. That being said, the progression of settings led to some incredibly powerful and moving moments. Low Plaza served as a sprawling and epic battlefield, and seeing the cast assembled on the steps of Earl Hall was absolutely stunning. These scenes were made better by the incredible use of lighting, which helped clarify boundaries of the “stage” by dividing the well-lit actors from the audience members standing the shadows. The lighting also added an strange ambience to certain scenes throughout the performance; the lighting on the witches was often a spooky green, and the final battle scene was lit with blood red lights for effect.

The stylistic elements of the production had a distinctly dystopian feel. The performers’ costumes were relatively simple- neutral basics with some fabric cloak/sash/robe on top. Black and brown were staples of the color palette, but eerie green fabric also appeared on many actors. The costumes were designed by Fashion Week regular Hannah Yoo (BC ’19), with the help of Sarah Dahl (BC ’19) and Sara Edelman-Munoz (BC ’18). In lieu of swords, the actors carried long metal pipes. Many actors had bare faces, but the witches sported heavy make-up with black lips and the illusion of grey shadows under their cheekbones. Clearly, this “Macbeth” was not a “Macbeth” of the past, but perhaps it was one of the future.

For me, the witches were the stars of the show, standing out in every scene in which they appeared. Portrayed by Meghan Boroughs (CC ’16), Isabel Daly (BC ’19), and  Alexandra Warrick (BC ’17), the three witches perfected their unsettling presence onstage, moving with such perfect synchronicity that speech was unnecessary to communicate their personas. When they did speak, however, they did so chillingly, commanding the audiences full attention with their performance. Their slithering coordination was the single most frightening (and enjoyable) aspect of the play.

Other standout actors included Lindsay Garber (BC ’16), who portrayed a heartbreakingly emotional Macduff, and Bailey Coleman (BC ’19), who delighted the audience as an absolutely hilarious drunken porter. Garber was raw, passionate, and haunting, while Coleman provided much needed comic relief, whether giving a monologue or simply sitting onstage. The ensemble also served an important role, directing audience members and adding to the ambience with their chants and blank stares. The sheer number of actors was powerful- especially when lined up across Low Plaza during battle scenes.

There were occasional scenes that fell flat from low-energy (understandable given finals’ fast approach), but generally, KCST’s “Macbeth” was impressive. The artistic direction and stylistic choices were interesting, the movement around Columbia was energizing, and most of the actors were exceedingly talented. Above all, the experience of following such an intense performance was a wholly unique one.

If you have a chance, join KCST tonight at midnight or tomorrow night at 8 pm on Low Plaza for an eerie and enjoyable journey through Columbia. No ticket is required.

Macbeth Snapchat Geotag via Jessa Nootbaar

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  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous vshow review?

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