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Streetcar Company tackles Shakespeare's "Macbeth"

Brendan Berube (standing) as Macbeth and Frank Stetson as Macduff rehearse their climactic sword fight for the Streetcar Company's upcoming production of "Macbeth." (Photo by Erin Plummer) (click for larger version)
November 14, 2018
"Something wicked this way comes" to the stage at the end of the month, when Streetcar Company presents "Macbeth," its first ever serious foray into the works of William Shakespeare.

The classic tale of the Scottish nobleman who is pushed to murderous ambition by a prophecy and the manipulation of his scheming wife will come to the stage at Laconia High School Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 and 2.

Streetcar has never done a Shakespeare play before. Director Paul Ayer raised the idea of doing "Macbeth" during the board's annual "pitch" meeting, where members are welcome to pitch their show ideas for the following season. The fact that the Bard's works are in the public domain convinced the board to take a chance on the show, provided Ayer agreed to direct it.

Ayer has been in six different Shakespeare plays, both in college and professionally.

He said he has been working to make the play as audience friendly as possible, especially the language. Any words or phrases that might be too arcane to come across to modern audiences have either been changed to something more understandable or cut.

"We are trying to capture the flavor of Elizabethan theater without baffling people," Ayer said.

Overall, he said, audiences will still get the story and emotions of the play.

He said the rehearsal process has been going really good.

"A lot of people who came to audition, they came with misgivings," Ayer said. "Now they say, 'Thank God I came,' because they're having a blast. These people will definitely try another Shakespeare play."

Brendan Berube of Laconia, whose name readers might recognize as the Editor of the Steamer, plays the Scottish King himself.

"As a character, Macbeth is an interesting guy to play," Berube said.

He said calling Macbeth "henpecked" would be an understatement given his relationship with his wife. Played by Gilford High School alum Cordelia Penney, Lady Macbeth famously goads him into murdering Scotland's king early in the show in order to expedite the fulfillment of a witches' prophecy that Macbeth himself will one day be king, but Berube says there is also a side of him that deeply wants to achieve greatness.

"What makes it interesting is that as the play develops, [Macbeth and Lady Macbeth] switch places more and more, and he becomes the schemer and the bloodthirsty one," Berube said. "The question becomes, was it really all her, or was this paranoia and savagery part of his inner nature from the word go? And what, if any, redemption does he find in the end?"

Berube said he took a college course on Shakespeare, and came in quite familiar with the language. He said he has always wanted to do Shakespeare.

"This is a no kilts, no accents show," he said, "so t's basically using my normal voice, getting accustomed to the metric configuration of the lines."

Ayer, he added, insisted from the outset that the cast not employ Scottish or British accents in order to make the dialogue more accessible to audiences.

He said this is one of the best experiences he has had in theater.

Macbeth's ultimate enemy, Macduff, is played by Frank Stetson, who comes from Meredith and currently lives in Concord. He said Macduff is a vengeful father and husband looking for justice for his family and his country.

"His motivations and his drive are pretty simple," Stetson said.

Stetson studied Shakespeare on college and has done a few Shakespearean shows.

"When we had the opportunity to finally do it I was really excited," Stetson said.

Stetson said Shakespeare's language can be understood.

"It's a matter of sitting down and understanding what you're saying," Stetson said.

Kristine Snow of Alton, Evelyn Taylor of Gilford, and Melanie Perkins of Middleton play the Witches. Perkins once played Lady Capulet in a production of "Romeo and Juliet."

"I like it because it's poetic and it all rhymes," Perkins said.

Snow and Taylor had never done Shakespeare before.

"It's on my bucket list," Taylor said.

All three said they have been having a lot of fun playing the Witches. Perkins said the three have some choral lines together and that the text gives flexibility to play with the lines.

Taylor said everyone has been awesome to work with.

"Macbeth" will be performed at the Laconia High School auditorium Nov. 30, Dec. 1, and Dec. 2. The Friday and Saturday night shows begin at 7 p.m., and Sunday's performance will be a 2 p.m. matinee. Tickets are on sale at the Streetcar Company Web site at www.streetcarcompany.com.

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