An extraordinary production of Macbeth is playing out this summer under the big tent at the Boscobel estate overlooking the Hudson River. Director Lee Sunday Evans has elected to have the entire cast portrayed by three women, in this case, the talented Maria-Christina Oliveras, Nance Williamson, and Stacey Yen. As the three approach center stage, with menace in their eyes, they are the three witches ready to give Macbeth and his comrade Banquo the prediction that sets off the action.
Then, each one remarkably melds into another character, seamlessly, and with enough of a clue so the audience can follow along. Having three performers play a roster of characters could be off-putting, but in this case, Evans is playing on the notion that Shakespeare’s plays generally have the women stand by the sidelines and don’t have very much do. As each character comes to life, we are seeing the play in a new light, with the women telling the story, and with a feverish gusto that leaves the audience speechless; you could have heard a pin drop on the dirt floor.
In the director’s note, Evans writes, “Macbeth is not a play about legality, but takes us deep into the morass of psychology and desire that can drive individuals to do unconscionable things in the pursuit of power.” Each actor has the opportunity to show raw emotion at the unfolding of the action, from murder to slaughter and to madness. When Yen, as Malcom’s wife comes upon her dead child, her scream of “MURDER” shakes the rafters. The clever use of sound effects and the chanting by the ladies create an eeriness to the murderous plots and brings Shakespeare’s most famous play chillingly alive.
Macbeth is one of three rotating plays at the 2016 Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, now celebrating its 30th anniversary. As You Like It and Measure for Measure are also on the schedule, and each one has been directed with a new flair, and presented with a fresh point of view. This year, as the world celebrates the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, come celebrate the man considered the “greatest playwright in the English language.” After seeing Macbeth, you will be convinced.
Boscobel is located about 90 minutes north of New York City, in Putnam County. Accessible via Metro North with shuttle service is available at Cold Spring. The estate is a popular site for picnickers who come for the day, pack a blanket, and watch the Hudson River go by. The season continues until Labor Day. For ticket information, special performances, and dining ideas, visit the website for the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival.
Photographs by T. Charles Erickson