REVIEW: Chilling MACBETH, San Jose Mercury News

San Jose Mercury News, Posted on 

Chilling Macbeth reigns at Santa Cruz Shakespeare

by Karen D’Souza

Steve Pickering (Macbeth) and Melinda Parrett (Lady Macbeth) in Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s Macbeth by William Shakespeare. Photo by Shmuel Thaler.

Steve Pickering (Macbeth) and Melinda Parrett (Lady Macbeth) in Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s Macbeth by William Shakespeare. Photo by Shmuel Thaler.

The cursed Macbeth is forever trapped by fate in the Scottish play that bears his name, but for Santa Cruz Shakespeare, change is the only constant.

Just two years ago, UC Santa Cruz shut down its original incarnation as Shakespeare Santa Cruz. Now the newly reborn troupe has been told its lease will not be renewed, so Kirsten Brandt’s gutsy “Macbeth” (playing along with the Bard’s “Much Ado About Nothing” and David Ives’ “The Liar”) marks the company’s swan song in its fabled redwood glen. Next summer, the company hopes to decamp to city’s DeLaveaga Park, which boasts a beautiful eucalyptus grove — so perhaps all’s well that ends well. Shakespeare under the stars will remain the troupe’s signature.

While the director, formerly of San Jose Repertory, could heighten the play’s sense of the macabre and the eerie nature of the tragedy, this is a clear and urgent retelling of the grim fairy tale that plays with notions of gender. Many of the roles usually played by men, such as the valiant warrior Banquo (a formidable Greta Wohlrabe) and Duncan’s heir, Malcolm (Sierra Jolene), here are played by women.

If the concept doesn’t raise the stakes emotionally quite as much as you might hope, it’s a bold and inventive move that embraces the troupe’s adventurous nature. Artistic director Mike Ryan, a pillar of the acting company over the years, has signaled that gender parity is part of his vision for the theater going forward. …

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Tickets on sale now for the 2015 season, which features three outdoor productions, starting with the wickedly romantic Shakespeare comedy Much Ado About Nothing, opening July 3; followed by David Ives’s modern adaptation of the wickedly hilarious 17th century farce, The Liar, opening July 24; and Shakespeare’s wicked tragedy, Macbeth, opening August 7. Plus, SCS continues the tradition of its intern-showcasing Fringe production with four performances of the wickedly festive comedy The Rover, starting August 18.

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