Staging “Macbeth” Can Be Tricky- St. Louis Shakespeare Has A Lot To Be Proud Of With This One

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Ben Ritchie as Macbeth in the St. Louis Shakespeare production. Photo: John Lamb

Just this year alone I’ve seen “Macbeth” at Opera Theatre, the wild “Trash Macbeth” at ERA and now this unusual but highly satisfying production at St. Louis Shakespeare. It’s all in the interpretation and Suki Peters and company have done a broad mix of styles and surprises including just a touch of their off the wall alter ego- Magic Smoking Monkey. This is truly a “Macbeth” for the ages- dark and contemporary ages blending on stage.

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The eerie witches pop up throughout the St. Louis Shakespeare production of “Macbeth.” Photo: John Lamb

The classic three witches have a more prominent role in this production as they are scary with their predictions of Macbeth’s rise to power but then they take on the personas of household servants and others throughout the evening. Elizabeth Knocke, Taleesha Caturah and Katie Robinson provide the eerie sisters with a macabre feel which really carries over into their other duties as they “infiltrate” the rest of the play. They’re distinctive in manner and makeup and that makes them even creepier as the skulk around the castle.

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Maxwell Knocke provides tense moments for Macbeth as Banquo’s ghost in the St. Louis Shakespeare production. Photo: John Lamb

Ben Ritchie has had a great career so far at both St. Louis Shakespeare and throughout the local stages but his interpretation of Macbeth is simply one of the best. He’s convincingly stern and at times malevolent as he handles some of Shakespeare’s greatest moments but there’s a twinkle in his eye and dastardly grin that accompany other moments and it’s unlike any other Macbeth we’ve seen. Great performance.

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Michelle Hand mesmerizes as Lady Macbeth in the St. Louis Shakespeare production. Photo: John Lamb

Accompanying him in his nefarious machinations is another St. Louis treasure, Michelle Hand as Lady Macbeth. She is remarkable as she follows through with the guidance of the three witches and forces Macbeth’s hand in disposing of all of the obstacles in his way. Her hand washing scene as she sleepwalks through her nightmares is particularly effective. Maxwell Knocke is wonderful as the live and ghostly Banquo who helps drive Macbeth out of his mind and Scott McDonald is solid as the Thane of Ross.

Kim Curlee does a fine job as “dead man walking,” Duncan and his son, played by Eric Lindsey is equally powerful as he rises to power at play’s end. In a brilliant piece of interpretation by director Suki Peters, Macduff and Lady Macduff become a lesbian couple- which has serious and unusual implications during the final scene when Macbeth finds his head on a spike. Maggie Wininger is an outstanding Macduff and proves an able warrior while Wendy Farmer is superb as Lady Macduff fighting for her children.

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Maggie Wininger as Macduff and Eric Lindsey as Malcolm in the St. Louis Shakespeare production of “Macbeth.” Photo: John Lamb

Chuck Brinkley provides the actual comedy relief in the play as the Porter along with other roles and another quirky interpretation is Dustin Allison’s Thane of Lennox who rattles nuts in his hand and pops them into his mouth during his scenes. Shane Signorino and Michael Pierce provide help as murders for hire- along with other roles and Dan McGee tackles a couple of roles as well. The rest of the ensemble shines as well.

Chuck Winning provides an effective set that includes a gnarly, large girthed tree at back center that provides a haunt for the witches and several others. Nathan Schroeder’s lighting design provides the proper mood including the various colors at the tree top that makes the witches even scarier. JC Krajicek’s costumes are spot on as well making both Mr. Ritchie and Ms. Hand look impressively royal and giving Ms. Wininger’s Macduff a skin tight leather number that dispels any thoughts that they might be trying to pass her off as a man.

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Ben Ritchie and Michelle Hand as the deadly duo in the St. Louis Shakespeare production of “Macbeth.” Photo: John Lamb

Yes, this is “Macbeth” but you will be pleasantly surprised how fresh and approachable this production is. Suki Peters’ direction is clean and crisp and the touches of dark and not so dark humor and unusual touches throughout make for a treat around every corner of Scotland’s bonnie plains. It only plays through this week-end, October 16th at the Ivory Theatre so contact them at boxoffice@stlshakespeare.org to get tickets for this one.

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