Macbeth is arguably the best play about ambition written in English. It’s been performed for centuries, and will hold relevance as long as humans behave the way they do—which is to say, as long as people seek power for power’s sake, audiences will see those people in these characters. It is a cathartic experience, to say the least, to witness an evil thing wreak havoc only to fall apart and be destroyed, but Shakespeare is also deeply compassionate in his portrayal of evil. We see few of the heinous acts themselves, but rather Macbeth and Lady Macbeth alone in the aftermath. Their real struggle is an internal one with ambitions they can’t control. By comparison, the world is easy and can be slain.
Shakespeare by the Sea’s adaptation of Macbeth is deeply satisfying. It is a swift 85 minutes with a cast of three, who all play multiple roles with the aid of shadow and puppetry work and a very cinematic score of incidental music. The cast is strong, particularly Katherine Tufts as Lady Macbeth, who has an unsettling, bubbling energy that make every moment in her presence seem unpredictable. Daniel Gervais as Macbeth is, by comparison, an appropriately weak man surrendered to the vile evils of power that control him. They are both compelling and unusual performances. Shakespeare by the Sea has tackled one of the world’s most famous plays and created a polished, exciting piece of theatre.