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A brand new twist on greed and ambition

Observer Scene | Friday, November 11, 2005

William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a violent story of greed and ambition, has been uniquely brought to life by an entirely female cast at Saint Mary’s. From the dark, gloomy set to the beautiful costumes and rich acting, the play is a captivating and entertaining experience.

Mark Abram-Copenhaver’s directing brings together a strong female ensemble and a unique stage design to offer a different perspective on Shakespeare’s work.

“It was the shortest of Shakespeare’s tragedies and allows the audience to become involved with the story,” Abram-Copenhaver said.

He hoped the audience would leave “intrigued and excited” about the playwright and his work. Abram-Copenhaver explained he decided to work with an all-female cast not just for the novelty of it, but also to create a production that brought to life the many different layers of the tale.

“Macbeth is a morality play about greed and ambition,” Abram-Copenhaver said. “It needs to make the audience look at the dark side of greed and violence.”

By using a female cast he hopes the audience has new reactions to these everyday occurrences.

The acting throughout the play was superb. The entire cast maintained control over the difficult Shakespearian language and the words flowed easily and naturally drawing the audience in. Ashleigh Stochel turned in a performance so convincing as Macbeth many in the audience forgot she was a woman and were entirely taken in by her portrayal of the tortured man.

Ashley Peltier’s performance as Macduff, the loyal friend of the king who is driven to revenge when his family is murdered, was moving and strong. Crystal Schauf’s performance as the Porter was a show stealing touch and provided comic relief. Her interaction with the audience was hilarious and added a touch of gaiety to the dark play.

Other notable performances included the witches, who were frightening and mystical, standing seven feet tall. The ensemble work of the cast was also exceptional.

Fight scenes were highly believable and extremely violent. The actors trained everyday for a week with Kevin Asselin, a professional stage fight choreographer, and then three times a week for a month. The action in the play is extremely violent and at times gory.

The simple set consists of mainly a great hall door and several movable parts. The dark and ominous feel of the set fits perfectly with the themes of death and doom. The unique part of the set is that it allows the audience members to sit directly on stage. Abram-Copenhaver also chose to cut two-thirds of the seats in Little Theater.

“Little Theater rarely sells out and the empty spaces are distracting to the audience. By having less seats the audience members are closer to the action giving them a better experience,” Abram-Copenhaver said.

He also noted that it was an “educational and unique experience for the actors.”

The performers in the play also agreed the small atmosphere was beneficial.

“I feel the audience reactions to a greater extent because the actors are able to see the actual emotions on the faces of the audience,” said Angela Sauer, who played Lady Macbeth.

“The atmosphere gave me more energy and helped me stay in character,” Peltier said.

Both agreed that it was great learning experience as actors. The set did provide a unique experience for the audience, but was at times frustrating because the audience members blocked action on stage.

Overall the production of Macbeth was an intriguing, frightening and entertaining theatrical experience.