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'Macbeth' In Lake Tahoe Is Often Marvelous, Chilling

Joy Strotz / Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival

Duncan, King of Scotland (David Anthony Smith, center), addresses his subjects in the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival’s production of Macbeth at Sand Harbor in Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, which runs through August 26.

Joy Strotz / Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival

There is much to admire in Tahoe Shakespeare’s Macbeth, including the portrayal of the famous trio of witches.

They are dressed in billowing black fabric, and when the witches extend their arms wide, holding rods for added length, you get the impression that the three have sprouted enormous dark wings, nine feet from tip to tip, like huge vultures. It’s a marvelous visual, and chilling to boot.

And each time the witches prepare to meet Macbeth, they hint we are about to witness something that’s been foretold.

This month, the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival is presenting Macbeth, Shakespeare’s dark portrait of an ambitious nobleman whose lust for power transforms him into a murderer. The production is staged outdoors, at night, and the gathering gloom enriches this classic tragedy’s grim, supernatural atmosphere.

Macbeth A Witch (Meredith Lark) casts a spell in Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival’s production of Macbeth. Joy Strotz / Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival

Actor Robert Lynn Berg, as Macbeth, starts to relish committing dreadful deeds after sundown. And Lady Macbeth, played with intensity by Erin Partin, is equally gleeful invoking her diabolical intent:

This is a power couple that’s bad-to-the-bone, who egg each other on. And once they embark on their bloody course, they soon learn there is no turning back, which is precisely what Shakespeare intended.

This production also depicts medieval warfare — including hand-to-hand combat with fearsome longswords and battle axes. The battle scenes are vivid, brawny and barbaric. And the sound design is old-school, with lots of martial drumming and spooky nighttime noises. Director Charles Fee has streamlined several scenes, focusing on Macbeth’s relentless transformation from a brave fighter into a paranoid ruler.

Macbeth Macbeth (Lynn Robert Berg, right) and Macduff (Christopher Tocco, left) go head to head. Joy Strotz / Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival

So, if you’ve been wanting to see a traditional rendering of this Shakespeare classic, set in the misty Scottish past a thousand years ago — well, your ship has come in. Macbeth is a timeless portrait of evil, and one of Shakespeare’s best scripts, skillfully rendered here. You can’t take your eyes off Macbeth and his lady as they eagerly embrace their fateful choices, triggering consequences for every character on stage.

Macbeth continues at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival through August 26.

Jeff Hudson

Contributing Arts Reporter and Theatre Critic

Jeff Hudson has been contributing arts-related stories to Capital Public Radio since 1995, with an emphasis on theater and classical music. He attends over 100 performances annually, ranging from modern musicals to medieval masses.   Read Full Bio 

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