“Macbeth” review: a haunting reconciliation on fate and madness


Courtesy of Blue Demon Theatre

Anna Maria D’Ortenzio (left) and Elijah Valter star in Blue Demon Theatre’s showing of “Macbeth.”

One of Shakespeare’s most well-known works, “Macbeth” tackles the question of how rapidly a man can descend into insanity. While the English playwright’s answer may fall somewhere in the 200-page range, DePaul’s Blue Demon Theatre adaptation maintains Macbeth’s mania from his first appearance to his last.

Held at Wit Theater and starring DePaul sophomore Elijah Valter as the play’s titular character, “Macbeth” illustrates the rise and fall of a Scottish general after stumbling upon three witches in the forest. However, where Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” haltingly embraces his hunger for power, Valter’s portrayal emulates a man prepared to do anything for the throne moments after learning about his future.

Saturated with angst and melancholy, Valter does not shy away from Macbeth’s self-obsessed nature and commands the audience’s attention for each soliloquy to every moment in between. Mastering the glazed-over vacantness of a man desperate for power, Valter’s performance rarely stumbles, maintaining the play’s haunting atmosphere from his first scene to his last.

However, it was DePaul junior Anna Maria D’Ortenzio as Lady Macbeth whose performance defined the show.

Often leaving the audience with goosebumps, D’Ortenzio’s stage presence held such palpability, I was certain I could touch it at times. Her embodiment of Lady Macbeth’s mental degradation and repressed remorse for her role in her husband’s crimes was chilling and, at times, downright uncomfortable to watch. Yet not even the play’s climactic clash of swords could outshine D’Ortenzio’s dramatic portrayal of Lady Macbeth’s suicide, nearly bringing the audience to a standing ovation despite three scenes remaining.

Aside from the all-around stunning performance from all cast members, an additional highpoint of the play resided in director Grace Provan’s unique expression of gender. From gender-bending traditional male characters like Lennox and Ross to embracing women’s rights and wrongs, the Blue Demon Theatre’s adaption never faltered when it came to justifying their version of “Macbeth.”

Bolstering Provan’s adaptation was her embrace of the play’s supernatural elements. Although only appearing in a handful of scenes, the three witches’ presence (Cayte Worthington, CJ McKenzie and Anna Sadruddin) transcended beyond their physical proximity, haunting the narrative like Banquo to Macbeth. All three performers were deeply committed to their roles, cultivating intense eye contact with the audience alongside their natural spooky elegance, leaving viewers hungry for more every time they left the stage.

Additionally, the simple stage setup — containing only a handful of props in each scene — strengthened the play’s overarching themes of tyranny, unchecked ambition and guilt. In scenes that featured King Duncan and later Macbeth, a lofty throne was secured to the center of the stage, swallowing whoever sat down.

Furthermore, the monochrome costumes seemed to reflect each character’s soul. In the first half of the play, Macbeth dawns a white shirt and black pants but is engulfed in shades of black by the final act, finalizing Macbeth’s choice of power over peace. Lady Macbeth wears black for the entirety of the play. Macduff wears only white. Through these elementary details, the thematic narrative of “Macbeth” shines just as brightly as the tragic plot line.

However, the play’s pacing sows seeds of unsteadiness throughout its two-hour runtime. One of Shakespeare’s most approachable plays, with its quick tempo and rudimental focus on human nature, violence and regret, it is essential to not dwell in the space outside of Macbeth’s mental decay. Yet too many scenes consisted of characters exchanging letters in passing, adding little to the famed plot and fracturing the relatively steady narrative.

Still, Blue Demon Theatre’s production of “Macbeth” maintained the play’s core principles and embraced the emotional complexities and old English with ease. Through Provan’s unique adaptation, bunched with a talented cast and crew, the student organization created a satisfying yet unsettling experience, ultimately doing Shakespeare’s vision justice.