If any preteen boy knew he’d have the chance to jab a sword at his opponent — and not get in trouble with mom — he’d fall in love with Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Full of cheesy sword fights, spewing blood and shirtless make-out scenes, Park Square Theatre’s rendition of Macbeth is a 21st-century friendly take on the 1600s play.
Hey, don’t get me wrong: the lines, in their old English, haven’t been Hamilton-ified. The actors’ costumes just have a flare of JCPenney-esque denim and long-sleeved tees.
The play itself, directed by Jef Hall-Flavin, who formerly directed The Shakespeare Theater Company, is true to its original story. Three witches tell Macbeth he’s destined for kingship. But when King Duncan announces his son, Malcolm, will succeed the throne, Macbeth and his Lady set out to kill him. So begins his killing spree.
Macbeth, of course, is the protagonist of the play — but not without the help of Lady Macbeth. Played by Vanessa Wasche, the Lady is what we’d call a Woman In Power: Strong, determined to be the best and level-headed when her husband isn’t so. It’s just a small detail that she’s also set out to kill.
She responds to male characters when they tell her she’s too weak to hear their words. She stands up for Macbeth, covers up his murdering mistakes and stays fierce when he falls apart. Yeah, she’s killed at the end — but so is pretty much everyone else in the play, so she’s not unique in her death.
I’d be lying if I said I understood the lines word-for-word. I don’t. But the actors’ use of body language and inflection get us laypeople around the “Avaunt”s and “Afeard”s. And despite a limited cast (which, admittedly, was confusing at times), small wardrobe and makeup changes help guide the storyline forward when a character who should’ve been dead walked right back on the stage a minute later.
Okay, now for the best part: the fake blood. In an intimate theater, I expected a sword to come out of a newly inflicted wound totally clean (99 percent of the time, they did). The remaining 1 percent consisted of thin, bright red “blood” spurting from necks and abdomens — just enough gore to keep the audience interested and entertained. Let’s not forget about the hot and sweaty shirtless love scenes. Not so PG, so parents, consider yourselves warned when your kids see Macbeth on their field trips and come home asking about the Birds and the Bees.
Overall, brava to the Park Square actors and behind-the-scenes cast members. The play runs through Apr. 9, so haul your tuchus to downtown St. Paul and check out your local Shakespeareans! If you’re buying tickets online, use code “10D” for $10 off your ticket.
Bonus: We chatted with Macbeth‘s Fleance, played by Naveh Shavit-Lonstein, for last week’s Who the Folk?! Check it out here.