'Macbeth' – not a tale for the timid

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By Kelly Dolejsi

Out of the cauldron on Nectar Street will soon bubble a brand new take on one of William Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies.

“I like Shakespeare better than anything else,” said Grady Hughes, who will play the title role in the Los Alamos Little Theatre’s upcoming production of “Macbeth,” set to open Halloween night.

“This play,” Hughes added, “is dark poetry.”

Audiences will remember Hughes from his recent performance as Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” as well as earlier roles in Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and “Twelfth Night.”

Hughes commended the language and intensity of emotion in which Shakespeare immersed his plays. “Macbeth” stands out for being one of the bard’s most deeply psychological works, he said.

“The transformation Macbeth undergoes, and the transformation he and Lady Macbeth undergo, are particularly excellent aspects of this play – in contrast to ‘Richard III,’ which is also about a villain, but one who’s in no way conflicted, and in no way transformed,” Hughes said.

Director Eric Bjorklund, while “alternately elated and panicked” during rehearsals, expressed confidence in his cast, including his lead actor.

“I think we have the talent, the people, the chops ee to do this tragedy,” he said. “I’ve worked with (Hughes) before on ‘Twelfth Night.’ He has a prodigious memory ee In fact, he auditioned for ‘Macbeth’ without a script.”

While transformation is one major theme in the play, the director said he wants to highlight the “flavor of incipient terror” or the “Stephen King” element.

“We basically have a story of a man and a woman surrendering their souls,” Bjorklund said. “Why would anyone do this? How do you get out of it?”

He said he enjoys King’s novels because the true scare comes from the monsters you don’t see – the ones you imagine. In fitting with this idea, Bjorklund said his “Macbeth” will start in the dark and end in the dark.

Larry Gibbons, playing Macduff, added that terror, in entertainment, gets people involved in what’s going on.

“Shakespeare used terror very effectively – he was the terror-writer of his time,” Gibbons said. “In his release scene, he makes it very jovial, you laugh, and then he hits you with more elements that create terror. He uses this beautiful form, but is so terrifying in his presentation, like Poe. It’s beautiful to read, to experience, but when you’re through, you’re in a different comfort zone.”

“It’s that bad-dream feel, where things keep shifting on you,” Bjorklund said, adding that the darkness will also serve to emphasize the language.

“I want the language to be the only thing the audience has to grab ahold of,” Bjorklund said.

Shakespeare’s language has long been a major attraction and source of insecurity for both actors and audiences. To help his actors acquaint themselves with the script, Bjorklund spent three full weeks at the beginning of the rehearsal period going over the unfamiliar phrasings and vocabulary.

He said he believes “if the actors understand the language, so will the audience.”

Manuel Baca, who will play the Thane of Ross, who mostly “gives people bad news,” said he loves the language.

“I was lucky enough in college to take several Shakespearean acting classes so the dialogue was not so difficult for me to learn to speak or understand. I think the biggest problem I’ve had actually is because of my braces – just getting my mouth to move properly.”

He continued, “For the most part, the language, even though it is Elizabethan, is still clear enough to give someone an idea of what’s happening, even if they haven’t been exposed to Shakespeare at all. Although why they haven’t, I wouldn’t know.”

Nick Gurrola, playing Macbeth’s close friend Banquo, also seemed secure in his interpretation of Shakespeare’s seemingly eternal prose.

With a thorough understanding of the story, Gurrola is trying to “get into the character’s head ee Am I innocent ee ” or does Banquo have secret motivations of his own? Does he, like Macbeth, also wish to be king?

Sue Bargeloh, playing Lady Macbeth, said the challenge for her has been to make her character “real.”

“It’s easy to get up there and almost pontificate,” she added.

Bargeloh said she is embodying an angry – as opposed to guilty – partner in murder as she gives life to what she called a “meaty female role ee which is a rarity as one gets older.”

Assistant director Christine Weaver said that despite the language, Shakespeare wrote about issues that people continue to face.

“I think people identify with it,” she said, especially, in this case, with the political intrigue, she said.

Furthermore, “our actors are amazing,” she said. “(Hughes) and (Bargeloh) are perfect together. This show is going to be spectacular.”

“Macbeth,” produced by Dennis Powell, will open with a special Halloween performance at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 31, to be followed by 7:30 p.m. showings Nov. 1, 7, 8, 14 and 15, and a matinee performance at 2 p.m. Nov. 9. General Admission is $12 – students and seniors pay $10 – at the door or in advance at CB Fox.

The LALT performing arts center is located at 1670 Nectar St. For more information about “Macbeth” or other LALT productions, access www.lalt.org.