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A witchy night with “Macbeth”

What is a better way to celebrate Halloween than with Shakespeare’s spookiest play? Hold Thy Peace, Brandeis’ Shakespeare society, put on “Macbeth” on Oct. 30 and 31. I was able to attend opening night and see the society in action. This was one hour and 30 minutes of excitement, chaos and scares. This was not a straightforward production. Director Micaela Grimes ’22 and assistant director Zach Katz ’22 were able to put their own flair on this timeless classic. Katz stated that for this production, the cast and crew wanted to recapture the element of what Shakespearian plays were like in their time “…by leaning into the horror, madness and the little bit of campiness hidden within.” This was certainly achieved and I had a great time.

The play started off with no lights on, but a bright red background illuminating the stage. Silhouettes were seen of the actors as they seemed to be reenacting various important events that may come up later. I found this to be a great artistic choice to start off the play. Then the lights went up, and the play officially began. There was no stumbling and everyone said their lines perfectly. The sword fighting was very well choreographed; it was clear the actors knew what they were doing. This is a classic story, and here it was brought to life. A choice I liked was that towards the end, all of the people that had been killed turned into zombie-like creatures, as a way for Macbeth to face the past. It was a great way to finish off the show and the actors were very believable as members of the undead. They clearly put a lot of work into this critical scene. I found that to be very powerful, as it showed Macbeth confronting the past and what she has done.

A delightful choice for the play was to have a female Macbeth. Grace Ahlin ’23 took on the titular role and she knocked it out of the park. She became Macbeth during this show by showing a true descent into madness when she is succumbing to murders and having breakdowns as she sees ghosts. It looked as if she was actually going through these experiences as her emotions seemed too real, and I can see why she was cast. Another shining star of this production was Lady Macbeth, played by Kat Lawrence ’22. This is a hard part that was done spectacularly and she showed true emotions in her performance. Particularly in her final monologue before she died, you could feel the sadness in her performance with her sullen face, a voice sounding like she was close to actual tears and sad eyes staring into everyone else’s. The two leads truly shined, but as the saying goes, there are no small parts, only small actors. Everyone gave it their all. For example, another gender-swapped role was Malcolm, the son of the king turned daughter of the king. Nicole Garmizo ’22 gave this part life and she certainly brought a lot of power and feeling to the role. With her powerful voice and the expressive anger in her scenes, I think she was the right choice. Honestly, I believe everyone in this play was the right choice. Whether they were in several scenes with several long lines of dialogue, or if they had one line in one scene, everyone treated their part like it was the most important part of the play.

Another important part of the production was the lighting. While some people might not see that as a critical part of a play, I felt it really added to various scenes. For example, scenes with groups of people had cool colored lighting to create a relaxed atmosphere. However, when someone like Macbeth was speaking aside, the spotlight focused on her and the color turned a glowing red. The lighting choice reflected the tone of a situation in a way that elevated the atmosphere. Another part of the production that I admired was the costumes. They looked as if they came right out of Shakespeare’s time. They all had the cuts and styles of the era, like the big skirts, intricate tops, puffy jackets, etc., combined with bright shades of red and green, or serious shades of black. All of the costumes were very captivating and it looked like there was a lot of time put into making them. While the audience might have paid attention to the acting, it takes a good team to make a production spectacular. The crew definitely delivered, and they brought life into the characters.

“Macbeth” is a play that has been done countless times. However, the directors’ choices and the innovations of this production made it feel new. I have read “Macbeth” before, but I have never seen it. The show really was brought to life and I am glad I got to witness it. All of the people involved with this production were essential and this is what led to a very cohesive show. I would go as far to say Shakespeare himself would be proud of what has been achieved. Everything from the acting to the costumes to the lighting fit the play well. Grimes’ aim with the play, according to the program, was that “On this weird post-[COVID] Halloweekend, we are re-introducing this dimension of chaos to the experience of Shakespeare. We hope you have a wonderful, outrageous, and frightful night.” They definitely achieved that goal, as far as I’m concerned. I look forward to seeing more productions by Hold Thy Peace in the future.

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