The Scottish Play at the Chocolate Church

Posted Monday, June 4, 2018 in Culture

The Scottish Play at the Chocolate Church

MacBeth (Clay Hawks) and Lady MacBeth (April Purinton) confront Banquo's ghost. Photo credit: Sararose Willey

by Gina Hamilton

MacBeth, tyrannical power-mad being or victim of his own fatal character flaw? Among Shakespeare’s tragedies, MacBeth presents a clear object lesson.

How does a man overcome his own basest instincts? And if he is able to, can he withstand those of his wife, who is even more ambitious than he?

In the play, the brave Scottish general Macbeth (Clay Hawks) receives a prophecy from a trio of witches (Shannon LoCascio, Crystal Vaccaro, and Jacquelyn Mansfield) that he is, this day, Thane of Cawdor, and would one day become King of Scotland. He is willing to write them off as frauds, until another soldier, Ross (Vince Shatto) arrives to tell him that he has been named Thane of Cawdor by King Duncan (Mark Hazard). He writes to his wife, Lady MacBeth (April Purinton) about the curious incident. Unlike her uncertain husband, Lady MacBeth immediately begins planning for Duncan’s demise.

Once the deed is done, Duncan’s sons flee for England and Ireland, leaving MacBeth to assume the throne. The deed is blamed on chamberlains, who are slaughtered before they can profess their innocence. MacBeth’s friend Banquo (Nate Levesque), who was told by the witches he would father generations of kings, is the only witness to the witches’ prophecies, and he, too, is killed. His son Fleance (Isaac Daniel Ensel) flees before he can be murdered. Although it is Malcolm (JD McElligott), not Fleance, placed on the throne at the end, in Shakespeare’s day, it was known that Shakespeare’s patron, King James I, was a descendant of Banquo.

The kingdom descends into chaos, and more and more people die to protect the pretender and his wife, even as they themselves are losing their fragile grip on sanity. Lady MacBeth sleepwalks; King MacBeth sees ghosts and shadows that aren’t there. The witches give him more prophecy – he will never be killed by man born of woman; and that MacBeth will be safe until Great Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Hill. Unfortunately for MacBeth, Macduff (Dennis Crews) was born of Caesarean section after his mother died; and those besieging MacBeth’s castle dress themselves in twigs and leaves from the wood. Lady MacBeth kills herself in her despair; MacBeth dies at the hand of Macduff, whose family he slaughtered. Malcolm is crowned, and Scotland restored.

So ends the Scottish Play, considered so unlucky by those who perform it that the name is never uttered aloud backstage.

For community theater, MacBeth is a particularly ambitious work, and yet, this troupe of mostly amateur thespians performed it admirably. The trio of witches are particularly gruesome, and Purinton makes a fine Lady MacBeth. Crews, who plays Macduff, is in his third year with Shakespeare on the Kennebec, and has a strong Shakespearean background.

The play is three hours long, with a half-hour intermission. It is definitely not suitable for young children, or for those of sensitive temperament.

MacBeth will play again on June 8 and 9 at 7 p.m., and June 10 at 2 p.m. For tickets, call 442-8455, or visit on the web at www.chocolatechurcharts.org. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door.

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