I am one, my liege,
Whom the vile blows and buffets of the world
Have so incensed that I am reckless what
I do to spite the world.
— Second Murderer in “Macbeth”

Dark times make for interesting theater, even if the play was written over 400 years ago.


Ridgecrest Community Theatre Troupe's masterful production of “Macbeth” starts on an absolutely bone-chilling (if unintentional) note. The play's opening famously features the three witches, stirring the pot and waiting for Macbeth to arrive.
The first shock comes when eight lines in one of the three (Kathleen LaBrie) says, “Paddock calls.”


The reference is to the witch's familiar, a toad named Paddock. The line follows “I come, Graymalkin” in which another witch (Denise Johnson) refers to her cat.


But the impact of that line, hearing the name of the man responsible for the deadliest shooting in US history uttered by a supernatural being forecasting pure evil gave the audience a start--however randomly Shakespeare chose the name. And it gets darker from there.


It is a cliché to say that Shakespeare knew pretty much everything about human nature, but this production of Macbeth at this time and this place seems to prove it. The entire play is riddled with disturbing references that call to mind the Las Vegas mass murder of Oct. 1.


There is the quote at the beginning of this column, delivered by a murderer hired by Macbeth to do his evil bidding. As pundits argue over our latest mass murderer's motivations, Shakespeare may have beaten everyone to the punch. His words seem to sum up the reason for great misdeeds that otherwise seem inexplicable—someone evil wants to “spite the world.”


Also eerie is the other murderer's reply about being “so weary with disasters.”


Lady Macbeth's guilt-ridden babbling about being unable to rid herself of Duncan's blood also calls to mind the horror of crime victims. When she says, “who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him,” the effect is gut-wrenching to anyone who has been watching the news for the past week.


In all, the play of “Macbeth” uses the word “blood” in some form 39 times. Like the constant recounting of tragic events on the news, this reiteration does not desensitize one to the horror. If anything, the repetition makes it worse.


Then, of course, there is the concept of evil itself. Like the recent events in Las Vegas, “Macbeth” brings us face to face with the reality of pure evil. It exists, it has existed a long time, it is nothing new.


Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are very bad people. They are evil. Lady Macbeth starts there. Macbeth either becomes evil too or was all along depending on your interpretation of the play. But by the time the play is over he is there. Works like this hold a mirror to our world at its darkest, and it is to the Bard’s credit that the reflection, however dark, is true.


Of course, none of this would matter theatrically if the play were not brilliantly and almost flawlessly executed. Ridgecrest owes director K. Pearl Woolam a massive thank you for bringing such spellbinding theater to our area. Her work with this show is truly magic. The other members of the small crew are equally talented: Josh Cotterell as stage manager and Caleb Crites for his wonderful fight choreography.


The supremely talented Kathleen LaBrie does a stupendous job as chief costumer, assisted by Jada Hodgson doing makeup and hair. Costuming on this show is particularly inspired, with a lot of punk garb and neck tattoos. I am not sure why, if it is a Braveheart reference or just an edgy modern interpretation, but it works amazingly well.


Saving the best for last, I have to commend the acting. Kevin LaBrie delivers a tour-de-force performance as Macbeth. LaBrie is one of Ridgecrest's most talented actors and I think this is his best performance to date. Equally stunning is Jessyca Merati as Lady Macbeth. She imbues the character with an absolute evil that is at stunning odds with her poise and beauty.


Richard MacNeill is flawless as Macduff. This character is essentially the good guy, the hero. It is critically important that he be able to share the stage with Macbeth, offering equivalent power and charisma. MacNeill is more than equal to the role. On a related note, Amber Stull and Emma Tolbert are heartbreakingly charming as Macduff's wife and child.


Caleb Crites is impressive as Young Siward. He particularly commands the stage during the almost balletic fight scenes, which is not surprising given he was also the choreographer.


In an interesting twist, Woolam cast a woman, Victoria Branch, as Banquo and Siward. This, too, works well. Branch is an accomplished actor and makes Banquo supremely likable, rendering Macbeth's treachery all the more ghastly.


Matthew Abramson is excellent as Duncan and Lennox. He manages to make the two characters completely distinct from one another and would probably get away with the deception entirely if not for the fact that he has blue hair.


Other actors did an equally fine job: Ian Bruce as Angus and the Sargent; Brianna Cotterell as Fleance; Allen-Michael Soard as Malcolm;  and Jeremy Walker as Ross all do well in their roles. Amber Stull also turned in a completely distinct performance as the doctor attending Lady Macbeth.


The three witches are played by Johnson, Kathleen LaBrie and Woolam herself. These are possibly the most important roles in the play. They set the stage; they make the audience see evil or at least fate. These three were up to the challenge, delivering performances that were darkly captivating.


In an inspired bit of casting Woolam also cross-cast the three in variety of minor roles, as people delivering messages, murderers and maids. This worked chillingly well in theatrical terms. The witches' dark garb constantly reminded the audience they were observing the unfurling of a darkly predestined tale.


Also perfect was the simple black set. Set decoration seemed to consist of one or two pieces of furniture and a lot of black tulle, behind which the witches occasionally appeared. This worked perfectly in keeping the emphasis on the language and the play.
Remaining performances of “Macbeth” will take place at the Old Town Theatre on Oct. 13 and 14 at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at Red Rock Books.


— Jessica Weston is the Daily Independent city editor. Contact her at


jweston@ridgecrestca.com


The views expressed are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the official stance of the Daily Independent.