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Shakespeare’s Scottish play Brings Violent Delights to Cincy Shakes’ 25th Anniversary Season

Review by Willie Caldwell of “Macbeth”: Cincinnati Shakespeare Company

Part supernatural fable, part horror flick, “Macbeth” delivers blood, guts, and gore in Cincinnati Shakespeare’snewest production.

One of the Bard’s more famous tragedies, Macbeth is a play about dark ambition. More so, it’s an exploration of blood, guilt, and the fragility of the human psyche. The play begins with General Macbeth receiving a prophecy from three witches that he is destined to become the King of Scotland. Eager to assume power, and urged on by Lady Macbeth, the pair set out to claim their destiny by brutally killing everyone in their path. As the body count continues to climb, the guilt racked duo descends into a supernatural spiral of madness and death. 

Cincinnati Shakespeare veteran, Miranda McGee, directs the adaptation showcasing her love of horror in a delightfully grotesque fashion. Giles Davies delivers a merciless performance as Macbeth – scheming, plotting, and murdering his way into political importance. Davies’ slim frame and effective use of physicality create a desperate character bent on assuming power at all costs. Kelly Mengelkoch portrays a ruthless Lady Macbeth who begins as a strong and manipulative woman but succumbs to the maddening guilt of her own blood-stained hands. The pair play well off of each other and bring a classic interpretation to the infamous characters.

Overall, Cincy Shakes’ production brings a dark and visceral adaptation to the stage, giving gravitas to the traditional story. The set, costumes, and treatment of the language are all period specific with strong attention to detail. As mentioned before, the use of theatrical gore was delightfully grotesque causing the audience to laugh uncomfortably several times throughout the production. 

The treatment of the witches is a particular stand out part of Cincy Shakes’ adaptation. The use of projections, creepy soundscapes, and voice augmentation create a surreal and terrifying experience whenever the “Sisters Three” make an appearance. The witches themselves (played by Darnell Pierre Benjamin, Courtney Lucien, and Caitlin McWethy) bring a demonic, Mephistophelian presence that is repeated every time they appear. The play makes full use of the technological abilities of the Otto M. Budig Theatre and it’s great to see the company continuing to test the limits of their new home.

The stage combat is highly orchestrated and for the most part quite impressive. At times, the fight choreography feels a bit labored which is to be expected with such a sizeable cast. Several sequences move too slowly to translate any real sense of urgency or danger but given the amount of theatrical gore this might be a good thing. Suspension of disbelief can be a delicate thing.

“Macbeth” isn’t a play for everyone. It’s a dark, violent exploration about the pursuit of political power. In the end, Macbeth becomes the very thing he is fighting against. The play is full of murder, blood, and gore with a shocking amount of violence. For those comfortable with the dark side of human nature, Cincy Shakes production delivers violent delights and violent ends. 

“Macbeth” runs April 5 – May 4that The Otto M. Budig Theater, 1195 Elm Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202. Tickets can be purchased online at www.cincyshakes.comor by calling the box office at 513-381-2273.