Macbeth…er…I mean “the Scottish play”

Last night I had the pleasure of attending New Orleans Shakespeare‘s production of Macbeth. This production locates “the Scottish play” within its native land and time, but as if the production is being staged in 1820s-1830s New Orleans. There is a grand, nineteenth-century proscenium, complete with footlights and a red curtain. “Pre-show entertainment” offers a lovely song about Lake Pontchatrain, some hilarious stagings of monologues from Hamlet, and a call to arms from a man in a coonskin cap asking able-bodied men to sign up after the show to give aid to the “Texians” in their war against the Mexicans.

The significance of framing the production as if it is being staged in America in the early nineteenth century is described in the director’s notes. I paraphrase here, but the idea is that this time period is the last moment in modern history when the general population still largely believed in supernatural forces being at work, when seances were still widely held and believed in. And New Orleans, with its historical connotations of spookiness, makes a natural choice within the context of the time-period. Also, I learned from the director’s notes, at the time New Orleans was one of the most opulent and important centers of theater in the English-speaking world. So there.

Along these lines, of diabolical forces at work, this production makes full use of the three witches. They occupy the stage for most of the production, laying out tarot cards, which, in some lovely moments, mirror the actions of the other players. Indeed, the witches, blank and moving in tandem in their creepy corner of the stage are genuinely scary and, definitely some of the most fun to be had in this grisly production.

I’m not sure how much the play’s context in the early days of the Enlightenment has to do with today, indeed, had it found that connection the production could have been brilliant. Rather, the choice in this production is to stage the play as a sort of early-modern horror movie, where diabolical forces are the root cause of evil and madness. And sometimes, you just wanna have a good time and get scared.

Directed by Jim Fitzmorris and Ron Gural. Starring Drew Battles and Ashley Nolan. Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm, and Sundays at 1:30pm through July 11th. Lupin Theatre at Tulane University. $30.

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