By Grace Yoo
A uniquely configured thrust stage is the first of the many surprises presented during Stanford Theater Laboratory’s production of “Macbeth.” Under the ambitious direction of Michael Hunter Ph.D. ’13, the thirteen-person ensemble transforms one of Shakespeare’s most famous play into a non-traditional, visually stimulating performance. A capstone project for seniors Noemi Berkowitz, Andre Amarotico, and Levi Jennings, “Macbeth” pushes the audience out of its comfort zone by blurring the line between greed and violence.
At the beginning of the performance, three witches interact with a unique projection that returns throughout the play. As they move puppets on a board, a live video stream (designed by Michael St. Clair, TAPS lecturer) captures and projects their movements. This recurrent use of dolls and marionettes is bold, since most violent scenes of whipping and hanging are enacted by these small figurines. Although this choice could have been laughable, the intensity of the acting is overwhelming; when a soldier cuts open a puppet and red cloth spills out, it’s hard not to cringe.
The crossover between scenes with and without marionettes is executed so well that it’s honestly quite surprising. Macbeth (played by Andrew Amaratico ’15) and the assassins interact so intensely, making it easy to suspend disbelief. As Macbeth orders the marionettes to kill Banquo, a camera zooms in his face. The live video stream projection shows the contrast between Macbeth’s face and those of the two assassins, successfully revealing Macbeth’s overpowering presence.
During the actual murder, the two puppets stab another doll that Banquo (played by Ph.D. candidate Lily Lamboy) holds. As the other actors place the doll on Banquo’s stomach and drag her body out, the suggested violence is stunning.
Beyond these creative stage directions, the acting is also superb. Tension runs high between Macbeth (played by Amarotico ‘15) and Lady Macbeth (played by Berkowitz ‘15) as the two suffer through the consequences of murdering King Duncan. Lady Macbeth pops against an army of people wearing boots as the only one wearing heels. Her first solo scene is very impactful; calling Macbeth a “weak man” for trembling after the murder, Berkowitz perfectly embodies a woman craving power.
Amarotico also perfectly embodies the conflicted, bloodthirsty Scot. The actor delivers the famous lines, “Is this a dagger which I see before me,” in complete darkness. Although none of his facial expressions are visible, the absence of sight makes his emotions all the more powerful; the darkness conjures up the imaginary dagger that haunts Macbeth.
Ultimately, with “Macbeth,” Hunter weaves a tale that creatively asks the audience to fill in the gaps it creates.