Post-apocalyptic “Macbeth” opens

On opening night, Nov. 1, the UVM Theatre Department presented Shakespeare’s immortal and immoral “Macbeth.” As opening nights often are, “Macbeth” was a witch’s brew of giddiness, static-crackling excitement and nervousness. However, by the time Malcolm (played to a stellar degree by sophomore Londonite Ted Nagel) brought the final curtain down with his coronation as King of Scotland, Shakespeare was surely not rolling over in his tomb. Indeed, it’s not hard to imagine that Wednesday night’s presentation would have left a smile on old Will’s face. Interestingly, director Peter Tkatch put a new twist on Shakespeare’s classic. “I decided to set the play not in Jacobean times but in a timeless, war-torn, battle-scarred, economically depleted world after some supposed cataclysmic event,” Tkatch stated in the playbill. Costumes fit the post-apocalyptic scene, with black military tunics and matching berets replacing traditional pre-Renaissance clothing. The elaborate set also matched the depraved, hopeless mood. Tkatch’s selection of weaponry included both modern guns as well as polished swords reminiscent of the Middle Ages, making for a confusing combination and a strange outlier in an otherwise well conceived rendition of “Macbeth.” It seemed like Tkatch went to the very precipice of fulfilling his idea, but simply refused to jump. The swordplay culminated in the final battle scene between Macbeth and Macduff with a brilliantly executed finale (including some WWF-style fighting). Nitpicking aside, the acting itself was generally well done. Act 1 lacked some emotional energy and tended to fall flat, but the explosive second half kept the audience on their toes and more than made up for a questionable beginning. Actors finally filled their roles during Act 2 – most notably Macbeth, played by recent graduate Will Todisco. Lady Macbeth, played by Jessica Hodge, was a convincing highlight of the otherwise spotty first act. While the major roles stepped into the spotlight with excellence, some of the minor parts weren’t up to par. Freshman David Archer recited his lines stiffly, as if he was reading, making a weak Donalbain. And the Three Witches (Leandra Brixey, Hayley Smith and Caitlin Bayer), typically a highlight of Macbeth performances, were unconvincing. Opening night jitters aren’t uncommon and even the more poorly played roles have the opportunity to shine before the closing of the play on Nov. 12. Worth the cost of admission to get a taste of one director’s take on a classic, UVM’s production of “Macbeth” was anything but a blip on the University’s excellent theater program.