REVIEW: Macbeth at Heartwood: Alive and Visionary

 POSTING DATE: May 3, 2103 

(By Maryli Tiemann, appearing in the Brunswick Times Record's Ticket section on May 10/ 2103)

Heartwood Theater’s newest production creates a Macbeth, which is so 21st century that, at first, it surprises. The set allows actors to tumble through a hidden entrance, dressed in bullet-proof jackets, recalling characters in television’s 24 or NCIS. Think intrigue; think tension; think realistic egos on a path to destruction.

The script is Shakespeare’s, though modern and fast-paced due to brilliant editing. And actors pulse within a set that keeps giving. In fact, much of your applause will be for exceptional technical achievements.

Rather like the weird sisters of Macbeth: nothing is just as it seems. Walls move to create additional settings, and lighting casts more than shadows and mood.

In his introduction Heartwood’s Griff Braley shared special admiration for Technical Director, Letitia (Tish) Munson and their crew, many of whom are talented Lincoln Academy students. What they have created is staging beyond set: projections, video on televisions, innovative technology, including full stage projection. Unique sound intensifies action and music heightens discord as the characters attempt to do and undo their horrific deeds. Even water, an important reoccurring element in Macbeth, flows freely in multiple aspects on stage. And Sue Ghoreyeb’s distinctive costuming merges with the vision, even darkening Lady Macbeth as the play unfolds. Their integrated process produces outstanding technical theater.

This Shakespearean company of actors spills onto this staging with gusto and never lets up. They are a fine ensemble, blending as if they truly lived in similar times together.

Lady Macbeth (Elise Voigt) believably seduces, connives, and crumbles into the madness of her actions. And her Macbeth (Chris Davis) brings inventive variance to his character and his interactions with colleagues he transforms to see as obstacles. Since the play rests on the couples’ motives and conspiracy, it’s essential we trust their lust for power.

Revolving around them is a remarkable ensemble: the hierarchy of men, their family members, and the weird sisters. This cast is impressive, not only in their individual characterizations, but also in their ability to create a sense of camaraderie. Duncan (Bill Vaughan), Macduff (JP Guimont), Ross (Joe McGrann) instantly allow us to experience the power of the Scottish throne. The weird sisters and Hecate (Millie Santiago) frighten and spin their magic on each of us, making us aptly wonder at the power of suggestion. I left pondering what role they play in today’s society… media moguls?

Also, it’s refreshing to have youth portraying youth. Mena Han-Laime, Jojo Martin and Mickey McAtee were significant additions to the cast, and hopefully will appear in more productions. Of special note is Mark Bedell, powerful in his role as Banquo, who also does a brilliant job as fight director. It’s so often the case that live fight scenes lack … well, a punch. This Macbeth’s anger explodes with so much realism that our audience gasped.

Ordinarily, I attempt to guard information about the action of a play so the actors can unfold it. However, when it comes to any Shakespeare, I advise scanning a good summary so you’re familiar with the plot before you go. There are a number of summaries on the internet. Shakespeare’s audiences already knew his stories, much like you know John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln while at a play in Ford’s Theater. The beauty of the Shakespeare performance has always been in the way the story is told – the creativity, the development of the characters, the staging.

Shakespeare wrote plays he knew would attract and entertain. His Globe Theater allowed over 1,500 people a day and many of them crammed in to stand in the center floor space throughout the play.

Heartwood has created a multi-faceted stage and its unique performance is not to be missed. Call a couple of friends and go taste the tension of this tragedy.

Macbeth runs May 3, 4, 9-11 at 7:30 pm with one 3:00 matinee, Sunday May 5 in the Parker Poe Theater, Newcastle. Tickets are $10/students, $20/adults (advance), $22 (at the door). Reservations: 563-1373 or For details/directions, visit

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