It’s difficult enough to produce a plausible “Macbeth” on a stage inside a theater, so hats off to Revolution Shakespeare, the relatively new local stage company’s that’s presenting “Macbeth” out in the open, in Hawthorne Park just south of Center City. But don’t keep those hats off too long – you’ll need them as the night unfolds, Macbeth gets madder and madder with power and the winds begin to blow down Catharine Street.
The two-year-old Hawthorne Park is the square block of Catharine between 12th and 13th Streets, and it sits in the middle of a residential neighborhood, with red-brick row houses on every side and the shist façade of Rising Sun Baptist Church anchoring one corner. It’s a great place for a play, given that a walkway into one side of the park rises above the ground and serves nicely as a stage. As darkness falls the voices of actors echo more and more off the house fronts – especially when the performers are positioned close to any of the park’s sidewalk borders.
They are performing in different areas of the park in Revolution Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” with fluid staging from director Allison Heishman. This version is a mix of Scotland (some of the actors wear wrap-around kilt designs over their trousers) and New Orleans (some of the scenes are accentuated by jazz played live, courtesy of the Red Hot Ramblers). The real innovation is the insertion of a new character – a man in the image of Papa Legba, the Haitian intermediary between the human world and the spiritual one.
The character (played by James Tolbert III) works well. He controls the three witches (Emily Moylan, Sarah Schol and Dana Kreitz) as if he’s their puppeteer, and he also takes some of the roles. These include the doctor called in to treat Lady Macbeth’s madness and the man who warns Lady Macduff that her husband’s so-called best bud is sending in troops to murder her and her children.
Jared Michael Delaney plays Macbeth with glimpses of the power-mongering craziness that he eventually allows to overtake him; he’s not always convincingly forceful, but gets more so in the second half. His even more aggressive Lady Macbeth is Aimé Donna Kelly – throughout, the sort of troubled character you expect to see going mad in the end. Macduff is Griffin Stanton-Amiesen, one of the leaders of Revolution Shakespeare, in a sound and well-considered performance.
Possibly because there’s little scenery to help us through the play, it seemed out of context to me – my guess is that many in the attentive audience on Wednesday, when I was there, knew the story well enough not to need help. Matt Sharp lights the show mostly from the ground, which gives it a ghoulish look but not enough to make the show seem appropriately lit, and Revolution Shakespeare could use some decent amplification. (The actors had none at all.) In the end, though, it mattered little. The actors had very good vocal projection, a full moon rose behind the players, a food truck kept the audience well fed, and the story played out nicely outdoors, as if summer would stay with us at least for now.
“Macbeth” runs through Oct. 12 at Hawthorne Park, 12th and Catharine Streets. The show is free. www.revolutionshakespesare.org.