Macbeth, First Folio Shakespeare Festival, at the Peabody Estate at Mayslake. Shakespeare was originally performed outdoors--but in a partly enclosed urban structure. When we attend outdoor performances, they tend to be at night in pastoral settings, and so those producing the Bard must often deal with uneven terrain, murky illumination, indistinct acoustics, campground furnishings, pesky wildlife, and capricious weather. Actors performing under these conditions have their work cut out for them in rendering the text both audible and comprehensible. Speech must be slower, inflections broader, enunciation more precise, and volume better calibrated, all without allowing the pace to drag or the running time to balloon.
Fortunately director Alison C. Vesely has cast this Macbeth with experienced, capable players who readily adapt to the requisite larger-than-life deliveries without ever veering into caricature. Kristine Thatcher's Lady Macbeth and Jann Iaco's witch are particularly vivid and sharply etched. Matthew Penn's Macbeth at first seemed a bit too subdued at the preview performance I attended, but he gained stature as the story unfolded. And the Peabody Estate allows for the spectacle of armies charging across a green and apparitions springing from the ground like mushrooms, rendering First Folio's interpretation not only intellectually articulate but vigorous (if surprisingly nonviolent).
--Mary Shen Barnidge