A bloody ‘Macbeth’ played on a Wisconsin night in the rain, and no one in the audience even budged

Posted September 10, 2019

Macbeth, 2019.

By Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune, September 9, 2019

“Macbeth” in the dusky rain, political panic pervasive. This, for me, makes William Shakespeare live.

You first have to know that the roughly 1,000 people sitting at American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wisc., for a Sunday September soiree are no more likely to get up and go home than Green Bay Packers fans would allow a frigid snowstorm to dislodge their butts from their frozen perches at Lambeau Field. To remain is a point of pride. You can pull out a poncho or sink a little lower in your seat. You may even sport a scowl. But you not may exit, even claiming the pursuit by a bear.

Actors of the classically trained caliber long found at this 40-year-old outdoor theater, the best such venue in the Midwest, are to be supported as their costumes soak through and their bodies shiver. Plus these loyal patrons have come to understand a truth that many miss: Shakespearean tragedies are all about the weather. They were written for storms with interludes of calm. You know, like all of human history.

“Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?,” asked Marcus Truschinski’s messed-up Mackers, hopefully extending a mitt toward the cascading precipitation. The heavens declined to answer in the affirmative, as is their habit, and the next thing you see in director James DeVita’s restless, primal, hurtling production is Melisa Pereyra’s Lady M, a visual tableau straight from “Games of Thrones,” her hands covered in gore and juice so shiny red that the primary color seemed to glow in all the sinful water.

I’ve never been to APT in the fall, always instead in the more hopeful spring and early summer. The place is called Spring Green, for god’s sake. But after promising “tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow" for weeks that turned into months, there I finally was.

Alone. Cold. A little bereft. Able to wonder with Ross, Thane of Scotland: “Is’t night’s predominance, or the day’s shame, that darkness does the face of earth entomb, when living light should kiss it?”

Good question, always.

It’s really cool when you get that line just as the evening is fading into black and the sound designer Josh Schmidt is unleashing creepy noises that might come from a computer, or maybe the woods behind the stage. You feel like you’re in a very privileged bowl, especially this one situated in front of that grove of trees, allowing DeVita to open his production by having Duncan’s forces come roaring out like Dothraki disturbed from their righteous rest.

At the end of the night, I wished DeVita had returned to that idea, fulfilling the twisted sisters’ prophecy about Burnham Wood. Maybe he worried that trees coming to life would have been too Pythonesque. I think it could have worked; we may well have felt like the environment was swallowing the encroachments of human ambition. As appears imminent.

Read the full review here!