Something interesting this way came as the Tennessee Stage Company’s yearly “Shakespeare on the Square” started in a new form. To kick off the month, the troupe performed one of Shakespeare’s best know plays, “Macbeth.”
The age-old summary remains the same. Macbeth is a Scottish general in the early 11th century. After winning a battle, he encounters three witches who tell him he’ll be king of all Scotland. his, Macbeth’s ambitions then take control as he murders and schemes his way into power, all as he eventually approaches his downfall.
Instead of their usual location on Market Square, the troupe performed on the Ijams Nature Center’s lawn. While this is a move taken out of necessity, Ijams’ lawn providing more room for social distancing, it ended up working in the show’s favor. The atmosphere around the stage, the natural light gradually giving way to stage lamps, the sounds of nature in the background—all these work together to immerse you into the story.
The stage itself was simple, using black boxes to represent curtains and background while limiting props to knives, swords and the odd decapitated head. This is in line with many Shakespeare adaptations, placing the most focus on the author’s prose. It does its job well, significantly aided by the outdoor setting.
The prose itself is presented well. It has been abridged, like in many other staged Shakespeare adaptations, but all the important details remain. The greater depth of that prose is slightly lacking, though not by much.
The pitfalls come from the cast members’ emotionality. The seven-member cast presented extreme emotions very well. They present extreme anger and sadness with a gusto that easily draws one in. The more subtle touches are left unexplored, however, leaving the emotional escalation feeling sporadic. Macbeth feels less a man steadily descending into madness and doomed ambition, and more a average joe who put on a scary face after being told to rule the world.
There was also some difficulty remembering lines, but I’d attribute that to first-day show pressure. It’s completely understandable.
Tyler Gregory, actor for both Banquo and MacDuff, stood out from the crowd. Some of the play’s most important and emotional scenes fell onto him, and he attacked them very well. He was also the show’s fight captain. Given how well choreographed the few fights are, he did a fantastic job.
Nathan McGhee and Raine Palmer were other stand outs. Both McGhee and Palmer were members of the witch trio, as well as several smaller roles. Each of their personas felt distinct and memorable, greatly adding to the experience.
Overall, the Tennessee Stage Company did a very good job presenting Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” There are a few kinks to work out with emotional range and purist mightn’t like another abridged Shakespeare adaptation, but it’s nothing serious enough to dampen the experience.
Tennessee Stage Company will perform “Macbeth” everyday from Oct. 1 to Oct. 18.