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Arts & Culture

'The Tragedy of Macbeth' closes the Proxy Theatre Company's season

Photo: Siggi Ragnar, License: N/A

Siggi Ragnar

Samantha Granberg as Hecate with witches Caroline Arroyo, Abigail Enstminger, and Chelsea Taylor

What better way for the Proxy Theatre Company to vaunt its versatility, following three contemporary productions, than to lower the curtain on its inaugural season* with a Shakespeare play? And what Shakespeare play is more appropriate for a young, ambitious troupe in a town that has been the graveyard of young, ambitious troupes than the quintessential tragedy of ambition gone amok — Macbeth? The Proxy players offer a vibrant, visceral take on the bloody Scottish play.

"This castle hath a pleasant seat," says Duncan at the outset of his fatal visit to Macbeth's home in Inverness. But when Sal Valdez, playing the hapless King of Scotland, utters that line in Act One the only seats around are bare wooden benches. Lacking a permanent home or a bounteous budget, Proxy has been borrowing venues for each production. After considering an outdoor site for Macbeth, they settled on a stark industrial South Side space that can scarcely hold an audience of 20. The result is an extraordinarily intimate encounter with mayhem in the Scottish monarchy. During the final, violent clash between Macduff (played by director Nathan Thurman) and Macbeth, a spectator has reason to fear the slash of an errant blade. When, pushing a shopping cart and hissing and cackling like deranged bag ladies, the Three Witches (Chelsea Taylor, Caroline Arroyo, and Abigail Enstminger) mix their toxic brew in a bubbling cauldron, a splash of blood or something worse could stain a viewer's socks.

"When shall we three meet again," asks the First Witch, "In thunder, lightning, or in rain?" The evening I attended, her words were answered by clamorous clangs and screeches. The performance takes place beside a railroad track, at 1907 South St. Mary's, and several times throughout the evening a freight train rumbled past, drowning out the actors' lines. At times, the external sound effects can be fortuitous, as when Macbeth, about to murder sleeping Duncan, said "the bell invites me" as a railroad whistle shrieked. The recurring racket outside, like the famous knocking at the gate in Act Two, matches the turmoil in a kingdom where fair is foul and foul is fair in the mind of the man who usurps the crown. The barking of some nearby dog during Macbeth's "tomorrow and tomorrow" speech underscored the hollowness of all the sound and fury. However, when introspective moments were drowned out by the din of steel pounding tracks, the site seemed more appropriate to August Wilson's Two Trains Running.

"Are you a man?" Lady Macbeth asks her hesitant husband. Spiritual sister to Hecate and the Witches, Sarah Nixon's Lady M. is a fierce foe of the patriarchy who nevertheless knows that she must unsex herself in order to use her man to get her way. She is eventually destroyed by the realization that "What's done cannot be undone." Yet at the outset of the play, Macbeth and his Lady are an attractive power couple. But Aaron Aguilar**, the company's artistic director who also plays Macbeth, never loses a strain of sweetness, even when committing heinous acts.

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