When William Shakespeare’s plays first made their appearances at the Globe Theatre, men played all of the roles. No one questioned a male Juliet performing the famous balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet, as that was the law of the time. Upon entering the building of the Unitarian Universalist of Fallston, I was intrigued by a sign reading, “Questions About Gender Identity and Power are Germaine to Understanding this Project.” After 400 years since its first performance, the BOOM Theatre Company is brave enough to delve into the gender roles of Macbeth.
Differing from the Shakespearean era, many of the male roles in this production of Macbeth are played by women, while men take on the female roles. With these intelligent yet creative casting choices, Director Ryan Nicotra forces the audience to see both the masculine and feminine sides of all of these dynamic characters, which causes moments such as when Lady Macbeth (played by Dustin Horsman) asks her husband, “Are you a man?” to be even more powerful.
Macbeth tells the story of its title character’s pursuit of the Scottish throne. After a premonition from three seductive witches and prodding from his wife, Macbeth murders the king in his sleep. Guilt and paranoia set in for Macbeth, who worries that others know about his evil deeds and then starts having hallucinations as he orders more people to be murdered. After much tragedy, the play ends with a final battle, determining who deserves to be the true king of Scotland.
In his first performance with BOOM Theatre Co., Sam Hayder is a first-rate Macbeth. He shows a wide range of emotion through his character, from fear and paranoia to coldness and resignation.
Dustin Horsman’s Lady Macbeth is strong and sure-footed when planning the king’s assassination, and I’m happy to say that Horsman is the first person I’ve seen not to overact the “Out out damn spot” scene, as Lady Macbeth’s guilt begins to overtake her. Their pairing is one of the times that the casting reflects the question of gender roles, as the bearded Lady Macbeth shows more of the traditional masculine qualities than the clean-shaven Macbeth.
There are a performance that were my favorites. The witches (Jennifer Hasselbusch, Samuel Pollin, and Ryan Nicotra) are hypnotizing and lithe in both their movements and the delivery of their lines. Lisa Davidson completely steals the show as Macduff. Her passion resonates in her eyes and in every line that she speaks. She is truly a force to be reckoned with every moment that she is onstage.
There is practically no set for this production (only a curtain), but the show is staged in such a way that the entire room, including its windows, is used as parts of the stage. At one point during the final act, I felt as though I was in the middle of a battle, as it was staged to take place on both sides of the room.
Unique to any Shakespeare play I have seen in the past was the use of quotations, subtitles and videos projected on the wall throughout this production. The quotations from historical figures like Napoleon Bonaparte were wisely chosen to coincide with what was to come in that act. However, the videos were often difficult to hear, which took away from the novelty of their use.
William Shakespeare’s works are so iconic that they are still being performed hundreds of years after his death. While this tragedy has certainly been performed thousands of times, BOOM Theatre Co.’s Macbeth is truly an original.
Macbeth ends its run today, May 23, 2015 at BOOM Theatre Company performing at the Unitarian Universalist of Fallston – 1127 Old Fallston Road, in Fallston, MD. Tickets are sold out for the remaining show.