Just in time for Halloween, Savage Rose Classical Theatre Company opens a production of the eerie Shakespeare tragedy “Macbeth.” The bloody tale of renegade power, murder and madness opens Thursday at Iroquois Amphitheater’s Parkside Studio.
Metro Parks transforms the amphitheater stage into Parkside Studio by closing off the large stage’s usually invisible fourth wall, creating an intimate, indoor stage (for days so foul and fair alike).
“Macbeth” is the story of ambition run amok. A Scottish lord receives a prophecy from three witches that he will be the next king, and takes matters into his own hands to see the prophecy come true. He murders the king and takes control of the country, ordering multiple assassinations and spiraling out of control from guilt and paranoia as a result. It’s a Shakespeare tragedy, so of course, Macbeth’s plan isn’t going to end well.
“Our hero Macbeth is almost an anti-hero,” says artistic director J. Barrett Cooper, who also directs. “He has his own issues of being childless and his own struggle with his ‘vaulting ambition’.”
Cooper, who also plays the title role, says this production will contain nudity, “bloody violence” and adult situations, and so is not recommended for kids under 14. Nudity isn’t usually among the warnings on “Macbeth,” but actress Jenni Cochran will perform Lady Macbeth’s haunting sleepwalking scene in the nude.
“There may be some people who find nudity on stage a taboo, that we don’t need it to tell the story. I understand that,” says Cooper. “By stripping away the ‘mask’ of clothing, we’ve replaced it with another—vulnerability. She is unprotected.”
Cooper says Lady Macbeth’s state of mind during her sleepwalking episode—wracked with guilt over the many murders she and her husband have committed, she sees her hands covered in blood she can’t wash clean—calls for a “stripping to the core,” citing not only her trauma from colluding with her husband on murder and treason but a reading of the text that suggests another reason for her mental state—post-natal depression and grief.
“She’s lost a baby, and it is having a dramatic effect on her,” says Cooper, pointing to the many mentions of babies and children in Shakespeare’s text, contrasted with Macbeth’s lack of a living heir. “It is a truly mesmerizing, beautiful, and ultimately pathetic scene.”
The dark Scottish play, long considered unlucky in the theater industry, will also feature a good amount of blood, though Cooper says “not as much as I’d like.”
“It’s really rather staggering, without being gratuitous,” he says. “It is a very violent play. The people are violent. The society is violent. Morality is not abundant.”
“Macbeth” runs through Oct. 28.