Hilberry Theatre stages a wickedly wonderful ‘Macbeth’

Miles Boucher as Macbeth, now playing at the Hilberry Theatre on the campus of WSU.

Four hundred years before we marveled at the violence of “Breaking Bad” and mourned the doomed  hero-turned-villain Walter White, William Shakespeare had created the prototype in “Macbeth.” In fact, this play portrayed an evil so sinister and dark that it is still believed to carry a curse; to this day, many actors dare not name “the Scottish play” inside a theater.

This sublime darkness – with its rich language, black humor and blood-gorged murder scenes –  opened the Hilberry Theatre’s 51st season in Midtown Detroit.

Paul Barnes, who packs serious credentials as a Shakespeare director, presents an authentic production of this bleakly beautiful Shakespeare tragedy. “Macbeth” is often staged in modern war settings, replete with missile launchers, Kevlar armor and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.   Ironically, the current Hilberry production may be more accessible precisely because it eschews these vagaries and sticks with the powerful momentum of Shakespeare’s script.

The witches are real women – scary, unsettling creatures – not metaphors. When Banquo’s ghost suddenly appears, it’s no mere lighting trick to suggest Macbeth is going mad. The audience gasps as the gory Banquo stands and extends his slippery red hands to Macbeth in accusation. The battles are fought by men wielding big swords, spears and daggers and they draw yet more blood.  Because of the evil unleashed by Macbeth and his Lady, many people – including women and children – die violently. And the play is only over when the villain’s head is set on a pike. 

New-to-Shakespeare patrons may struggle with the Elizabethan verse, but there can be no ambiguity in a severed head set on a pike. If you haven’t seen this play live – or perhaps if you’ve only seen a modern retelling – take this opportunity to see “Macbeth” in all its crimson splendor.

The Hilberry company of gifted graduate students, embellished by undergraduate WSU players, takes to the dark matter, and the iambic pentameter, like old pros.  Resisting the urge to chew the scenery, they still do not skimp on the raw emotions that rattle these characters to the very bone.

The outstanding cast includes: Alec Barbour (Malcolm, Apparition King 5) , Megan Barbour (Lady Macdduff, Witch 2), Miles Boucher (Macbeth), Danielle Cochrane (Witch 3), Mike Fisher (Bloody Captain, Porter, Seyton, Apparition King 4, Murderer 1), Nancy Florkowski (Gentlewoman to Lady Macbeth), Brandon Grantz (Lennox), Brent Griffith (Macduff, Apparition King 2), Annie Keris (Lady Macbeth, Messenger), Colin Mallory (Fleance, Apparition King 7), Sarah Hawkins Moan (Witch 1), Shane Nelson (Donalbain, Murderer 2, Attendant, Apparition King 6), Topher Payne (Banquo, Caithness), Chris Peterson (Messenger, Attendant), Brandy Joe Plambeck (Duncan, Menteith, Apparition King 1, Scottish Doctor), Tiaja Sabrie (Attendant, Messenger), Joseph Sfair (Angus, Apparition King 8), Janelle Soulliere (Attendant), David Sterritt (Ross, Apparition King 3), Kendall Talbot (Attendant).

The Production Team includes: Paul Mason Barnes (Director), Courtney Rasor (Stage Manager), Sarah Drum (Asst. Stage Manager & Asst. Technical Director), Max Amitin (Scenic Design), Donna Buckley (Costume Designer), Samuel Byers (Lighting Design), Leazah Behrens (Technical Director), Heather DeFauw (Sound Designer), Kimbra Essex (Properties Master), Alec Barbour (Fight Choreography & Consultant), David Sterritt (Fight Choreography & Consultant), Mick Keathley (Master Electrician), Maxwell Bolton (Publicity Manager).

“Macbeth” plays at the Hilberry Theatre, on the campus of Wayne State University, through October 12, 2013 with occasional production for school audiences scheduled later in the season.  Ticket prices range from $12–$30 and are available by calling the Hilberry Theatre Box Office at (313) 577-2972, by visiting the box office at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock Street, or reserving them online.

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