"The Scottish Play" is a tale of ambition run amok, treachery, fate and murder most foul. In this version, an eight-person cast tackles numerous roles. It tells the story of the legendary Macbeth (Tasi Alabastro), a nobleman whom a coven of witches (Sarah Haas, Troy Johnson and Rahamim) prophesize will become king of Scotland. They also tell Macbeth's comrade Banquo (Maya Greenberg) that he shall be the ancestor of kings. This is a Shakespearean tragedy so, naturally, things take an ill-fated turn.
Not one to sit back and let destiny take its course, especially when goaded by his formidable wife (Maria Marquis), Macbeth decides to speed up matters by assassinating King Duncan (Tachis, who also plays frenemy MacDuff and Third Lord), while the unlucky monarch is a guest in his home. This sets off a chain of betrayal, violence and villainy as Lord and Lady Macbeth fall deeper into paranoia, guilt and madness while desperately trying to hold on to the ill-begotten throne.
Maybe this is a relatively low-budget production, but in the innovative, resourceful sense. With an emphasis on the relationships between the characters, it's an emotional, intimately focused take on "Macbeth." The actors throw themselves physically into the roles, the witches craning their necks and rolling their shoulders like old-world vultures and hissing ominously; the ghost of Banquo stalking the stage in horror.
I've seen Alabastro in a number of recent productions and he's usually a lovable, affable presence. His Macbeth begins that way as well, so it's especially shocking to watch him quickly give into his darker side. Marquis is a confident, intelligent performer who delivers Lady Macbeth's words in an accessible and human way. Greenberg gives Banquo a world-weary, wry sensibility and later proves pleasingly creepy as head witch Hecate.
One of my favorite aspects of the show was the sound design, credited to the ensemble as a whole. Each cast member takes turns when they're not on stage, using drums, chimes and other implements to create the sound effects, including a truly chilling neck-twisting sound.
Tachis designed the simple but effective set, which utilizes white drapes in a number of ways, with lighting design by Dylan Elhai. Rahamim handled the costumes, which give the team a uniform look of muted earth tones and dark red, with small changes (shredded jackets for the witches, twisty wire crowns for Macbeth and his Lady) to differentiate the characters. Red ribbons clutched between the fingers, around the neck or wrapped in baby blankets prove excellent — and eerie — stand-ins for blood.
With its first Shakespeare production, the Dragon has delivered a faithful yet surprisingly refreshing version of a classic.
The show runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through April 7 at the Dragon Theatre, 2120 Broadway St., Redwood City. Tickets are $29-$37. Go to dragonproductions.net.
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