Mastering 'Macbeth' Shakespeare on the Green Takes Giant Step Forward with Artistically Superior Production

Article excerpt

Byline: Jack Helbig Daily Herald Correspondent

"Macbeth"

- Mini-review: Fabulous, first-rate and free

- Location: Barat College, 700 E. Westleigh Road, Lake Forest

- Times: 8 p.m. July 24-26 and July 30-Aug. 1

- Parking: free

- Tickets: free

- Box office: (847) 604-6344

Seven years ago, a group of Barat College theater professors created Shakespeare on the Green, an outdoor play inspired by Joseph Papp's free Shakespeare in the Park productions in New York.

Since then the event has grown from a simple weekend festival to a three-weekend extravaganza that attracts thousands. Even on a recent Sunday night, the artfully bermed hill in front of the stage on Barat College's sprawling front lawn was packed.

Artistically, too, Shakespeare on the Green has grown from merely above-average productions to excellent ones. The first Shakespeare on the Green show I caught, "Twelfth Night," was lively, fun and well executed but not substantially different from other productions. The costumes were historically accurate, and director Karla Koskinen successfully blended the play's strange juxtaposition of broad slapstick and subtle romantic comedy. But the production itself, however entertaining, lacked that certain something - that singleness of vision, that spark of inspiration - that makes a show extraordinary.

As the years went on, we began to see more and more of that certain something - in the wise and witty staging of "As You Like It" three summer's ago, for example, and in Scott Parkinson's amazing "Hamlet" last year.

This year's production of "Macbeth" - another dark and brooding tragedy - marks yet another step forward for this company. And I'm not just talking about the fact that for the first time Shakespeare on the Green is using Equity actors (well, one Equity actor anyway - Craig Spidle, who plays Macbeth).

The total production, from opening scene to final blackout, is very much the work of a company and a director who have found a distinct voice and point of view, and who are not afraid to show the world what they know.

I'm sure it helps that Koskinen and company are doing "Macbeth," one of the Bard's most tightly written plays. Nothing is wasted here. Every moment, every gesture in this beautiful, disturbing play adds to the story of a Scottish nobleman whose ambition to become king turns him into a cold-blooded killer.

The play has one comic scene, involving a porter who delays opening Macbeth's castle door because he is too drunk. But that comedic interlude, it turns out, is an integral part of the whole. It provides a little comic relief, but it also raises the stakes by putting some time between the scene when Macbeth and his wife conspire to murder the king in his sleep and the announcement that the dirty deed has been done. …