MacBeth (played by Rob Cameron) wrestles with his conscience and desire for power, as the three witches, played by Brittany Cook, Allison McCall and Molly Bryant Roberts, hover ominously in the background. This open-air Fenix Theatre Company production of MacBeth, sponsored by Bowdoin College, will be repeated July 26, August 2, and August 9 on the Bowdoin College Quad. Admission is free. by Barbara Duff
Coastal Journal staff
BRUNSWICK — Fenix Theatre Founder and Artistic Director, Bryant Mason dubbed the Bowdoin College Quad the “new cultural epicenter of Brunswick” on Thursday, July 19 during his introductory remarks for the opening night of “The Tragedy of MacBeth.” The majestic terraced steps, stately columns and classical sculpture of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art building make a perfect outdoor stage set for Shakespearean drama. Admission is free and three more performances of the cleverly abridged, 70-minute long version of MacBeth will take place on consecutive Thursdays – July 26, August 2, and August 9 at 6 p.m.
Founded five years ago, this fledgling acting troupe started with outdoor performances in Portland's Deering Oaks Park. Past repertoire has included “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” “Love's Labor Lost,” and “Waiting for Godot.” The Portland-based theater company is committed to performing in open-air settings with only the most minimal props and very simple costumes. For MacBeth, all costumes are white. Props amount to a few daggers and cleavers as well as several dramatically swathed and swirled lengths of diaphanous blood-red fabric that appear as a visual motif of death, doom, deception and dastardliness throughout the narrative.
Abigail Killeen, who plays Lady MacBeth, is incandescently evil and incarnates the downwardly spiraling moral vortex of the play. A white dress should by rights connote a “good witch,” but hers is strapless and punctuated by bright red nails and lipstick. This is a visual echo of the same kind of tension that exists between her inner ruthlessness and her public persona of gracious hostess. An Assistant Professor of Theater at Bowdoin College, Killeen was the catalyst for bringing the Fenix Theatre Company to Bowdoin.
Casting Susan Garrett as “Queen Duncan” and Sally Wood as Banquo, gives an interesting feminist slant to the production. Appropriately strong and moral in their roles, the storyline takes on the dimension of a matriarchy struggling against brute, patriarchal forces. The implication at the end, with Banquo's issue reclaiming the ruling inheritance, is that a female right of succession triumphs.
Other types of feminine energy emerge from the three witches, portrayed by Brittany Cook, Allison McCall, and Molly Bryant Roberts. Enigmatic and mysterious, these three make up for the scarcity of spoken words assigned to them by using evocative gestures and dance movements and also function as keepers of the symbolic red scarves. Like a Greek chorus, they clue the audience in to the moral themes and role of fate in the play. Maureen Butler as the porter, playing against stereotype by assuming a traditionally male role, is raucous, drunk, and bawdy. She adds the right touch of comic relief just after the dramatic climax of violent murder.
MacBeth, MacDuff, and Malcolm, played by Rob Cameron, Josh Wink and Benedetto Robinson respectively, are appropriately macho in their roles. In spite of the pruned script, MacBeth has time on stage to wrestle with his conscience and let violent ambition triumph. MacDuff sublimates his grief over the murder of his wife and children with a search and destroy revenge mission. Malcolm admits to being a sex addict and then decides that avenging all of the wrongful deaths will cleanse his past sins and make him a great leader. Sometimes Shakespeare is popular entertainment at its very best.
Nothing is better than seeing a live Shakespeare production in an outdoor venue. The old Globe Theater built in the Elizabethan Era was also open to the elements. The Fenix Theatre Company not only does a masterful job of delivering great Shakespeare, it humanizes the performance and makes it accessible to young and old alike. After the play, a ten-year old boy was heard to comment, “I liked it better than video games.” High kudos, indeed.
Keep it up, Fenix. Brunswick will continue to roll out the red carpet (or should I say red fabric swath) for you. And thank you, Bowdoin College, for adding another flower to the bouquet of cultural treasures being offered up in the vicinity of the quad this summer. These include the Maine State Music Theater, the Bowdoin International Music Festival, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art (especially the current William Wegman: Hello Nature Exhibition), and Inuit art exhibits (Animal Allies, In a State of Becoming, and Robert E. Peary and His Northern World) at the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center. Bring your beach chairs, blankets and bug repellent, along with a snack or two, and get set for a thespian treat.