Marin Shakespeare Company Opens 2011 Season with the Scottish Play

William Elsman as Macbeth and Alexandra Matthew as Lady Macbeth

For their 22nd season, Robert and Leslie Currier have rolled out the Scottish Play, one that some say carries a century's-old curse.  The story goes that when William Shakespeare wrote Macbeth around 1606, he used actual witch's incantations that were then uttered by the Bard's wonderful, weird sisters.  This greatly distressed the sorceresses of the day who are said to have placed a curse on the play.  A superstitious lot, actors and directors have gone to overt pains not to utter the name of the play as doing so would supposedly bring great misfortune to those who did. Leslie Schisgall Currier and a large cast managed to thwart any curse and successfully mounted this masterpiece of ambition, power, deception and treachery.  Opening night's performance was under a full moon. There was also a little wind blowing across the Forest Meadows Amphitheater and no significant chill.  All of the rage and storm to be had was on stage in this bloody tale of corruption, and ruthless search for power.   

Three cackling hags who appear in the first scene set the tone for the night. Lynne Soffer, Sylvia Burboeck and Madeline Harris were superb as the three witches.  These women, who also play other characters, were suitably costumed by Abra Berman to change at a moment's notice.  Macbeth (William Elsman) hears from the witches that he will become King setting a murderous rampage in motion.  With the help of Lady Macbeth (Alexandra Matthew), Macbeth murders King Duncan (Keith Stevenson) in Macbeth's castle, becomes ruler, then continues his orders to kill fearful that the witch's other prophesies will come true.

William Elsman gives a wonderful nuanced performance as Macbeth whether the triumphant young general or the mad King haunted by the blood on his hands.  Alexandra Matthew, previously cast as the nice girl on stage, was a welcome surprise as Lady Macbeth.  Macbeth and his wife are spiritually in tune; they love and understand each other without speaking everything out.  The supporting cast is uniformly strong. Particularly strong is Scott Coopwood as Macduff, the man who eventually fells the play's title character in a final battle. Robert Currier does a clever bit as a sleepy Porter as comic relief to slack off the emotional tension between two strong scenes and drew much laughter from the audience.  Darren Bridgett makes a brave and noble Banquo.  

The design work is superb; Mark Robinson's remarkably flexible set; Abra Berman's imaginative costumes, Billie Cox's Gothic music and amazing sound design and Ellen Brooks' spooky lighting.  

Macbeth is a thriller from start to finish, fortified by Elsman's robust Macbeth, Scott Coopwood's dashing Macduff and a closing image that suggests how cycles of political violence churn on.  

Macbeth continues at Forest Meadows Amphitheater through August 14, 2011.  Forest Meadows Amphitheater is located at 1475 Grand Avenue, Dominican University, San Rafael, CA.  For tickets or schedule information, call the box office at 415-499-4488 or go online at

Flora Lynn Isaacson