On the most versatile and impressive set since the theater program’s 2014 production of Spring Awakening, the intense tragedy of Shakespeare’s Macbeth unfolds in measured breaths. Macbeth (Nick D’Ambrosia), juggles with the insidious interpretations gleaned from witches who prophesize his rise to power in coded proclamations. Macbeth’s murderous ambition is largely spurred by his wife, Lady Macbeth (Amber Walker), and results in a bloodbath brought on by paranoia, greed and guilt.
The stop-and-go flow of the play is both effective and jarring, but not always in a way that flatters the drama. Director Mary Ellen Allison expands the roles of the witches (Christina Gallego, Liz Gonzalez and Erin Hernon) in her interpretation to the backdrop of original music by Ramapo professor and composer Gilad Cohen, but their appearances often seem repetitive, while scenes that might have deserved some lingering seemed to be cut short or not shown at all.
A strong sense of atmosphere is the driving force behind a striking array of lighting set-ups that fluctuate anywhere from a hauntingly deep purple to a cheery, early morning feeling. Most impressive are the transitions between contrasting aesthetics, which are seamless and beautiful.
While the first act satiates in the tension building of Macbeth’s descent into madness, the second act delivers in the action of battle and warfare. Choreographed sword fights in simulated slow motion are surprisingly exciting, and the sluggish combat gives it a sense of cinematic grandeur. It is in the fighting that takes place in real time where the chinks in the armor of live sword fighting are revealed.
The theft of Macbeth’s Scotland, led by Macduff (Sean Dabney), has no shortage of tragedy and reveals the true character of the major players involved in the crimes, namely Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, as well as the few who stand by him who “move only in command, nothing in love.” A series of squabbles and plots from the witches elevate the final encounter between Macbeth and Macduff, who do battle one last time following an impassioned murder of one of Macduff’s countrymen.
The enormity of the production is a marked achievement on the part of the actors and production team and stands as another benchmark in a program that has continually improved and advanced in all major facets of quality theater. Staying true to Shakespeare’s everlasting accomplishment, the rendered head of D’Ambrosia’s Macbeth on a pike is the celebratory conclusion to the epitome of complex and layered storytelling brought to the stage.