The Annapolis Shakespeare Company's current production of "Macbeth" is another resounding success as the troupe opens its fifth season.
This production, staged at the new black box Studio 111 home on Chinquapin Round Road, is a riveting rendition of this timeless drama.
Annapolis Shakespeare's progress has been fascinating to observe over its four-year history, starting from its beginnings as a resident company at Bowie Playhouse. The troupe exploited that theater's advantages, demonstrating the Bard's adaptability to any locale and any period — a fine example was the lively 2012 production of "The Comedy of Errors," which Annapolis Shakespeare set in 1890s Paris to the music of Jacques Offenbach and Scott Joplin.
For the past two seasons, the company has presented its Tuesday night Moliere comedies to capacity audiences at Reynolds Tavern Courtyard in Annapolis.
Now, starting a full season in Annapolis, the troupe chooses perhaps the darkest of Shakespeare's plays in "Macbeth." The stark simplicity of the Studio 111 venue proves ideal, its intimacy lending great impact while drawing audiences into the action.
Founding artistic director Sally Boyett realizes all aspects of Annapolis Shakespeare's mission in her direction, revealing the intensity of Macbeth's consuming ambition while lending accessibility to Shakespeare's masterwork. Boyett weaves the witches' prophecies with guilt and paranoia in illuminating fundamental truths of human experience.
With her music selections and attention to all aspects of production, Boyett adds a subtle contemporary tapestry that fosters a connection with the audience. The score, by composer and sound designer Gregory Thomas Woolford Martin, fits perfectly with every scene.
Also contributing to the overall experience is costume designer Maggie Cason. Especially notable are Lady Macbeth's elegantly simple costumes and the adaptability of the three Weird Sisters' costumes, which convert into royal garb suitable for banquets to transform them from fearsome hags into credible nobility. Trench coats serve as armor.
Another strong element of the success of this production is the lighting expertise of father and son team Steven and Preston Strawn.
The three Weird Sisters writhe in distress or move with sinuous grace, choreographed by Boyett and executed neatly by Renata Plecha, Vanessa Bradchulis and Stephanie LaVardera, who deliver the familiar lines with obvious relish.
All three also play additional roles and are outstanding. Plecha merits special recognition for her touching portrayal here of Lady Macduff. Local theater patrons should remember Plecha well from her excellent performance last season in Compass Rose's "Willow Street."
As Macbeth, Brit Herring delivers a portrayal of a man who initially seems driven by passionate love for his wife — before being driven by raw ambition to abandon loyalty to friends and king and ultimately commit murder. We meet Macbeth as a responsible leader and loving husband who encounters the three witches. Herring's every action seems natural, from his repelled reaction to the witches, to his passion for his wife, to his succumbing to ambition.
As Lady Macbeth, Rebecca Swislow presents a fascinating combination: supportive wife willing to further her husband's career and ambitious woman looking out for her own future. Swislow invests every act with love for her husband as her primary motivation, whether it means developing strategy or lifting a blood-stained dagger to implicate guards in a murderous deed.
Other standouts in this production include Michael Crowley as Macduff and a Captain, Kim Curtis as Duncan, and Brendan Edward Kennedy as Malcolm and the First Murderer. Every member of the cast is first rate, which makes the company's production at its new venue a must-see.
Annapolis Shakespeare will continue its season in 2015 at Studio 111 with "Sense and Sensibility" from March 27 to April 26, followed by the premiere of "Servant of Two Masters" from May 19 to Sept. 29 in the Outdoor Courtyard of Reynolds Tavern. St. John's College will be the locale of its next two productions: "Two Gentlemen of Verona" May 29 to June 28 and "A Tale of Two Cities" July 10 to Aug. 9.
"Macbeth" at Annapolis Shakespeare Company's Studio 111 continues weekends through Nov. 23. To order tickets, call the box office at 410-415-3513 or go to annapolisshakespeare.org.