Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

Macbeth at City Lit Theatre

By William Shakespearemacbeth at city lit theatre chicago

Directed by Susan Hart

At City Lit Theatre

“Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee;
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
I see thee yet, in form as palpable
As this which now I draw.” –Macbeth

Scary, well stage Macbeth an excellent directorial debut for Susan Hart

The world class actress Susan Hart makes her directing debut with a stellar production of Macbeth now running at City Lit Theatre. Of the many remarkable accomplishments in this smart, articulate and expert production are the eerie red light by lighting designer Sean Mallary setting the tone of blood flowing. Andrew Hansen sound design and Matt Hawkins fight choreography and Branimira Ivanova’s black period costumes add to the play’s tone. City Lit’s Macbeth is among the finest non-Equity Shakespeare you’ll see anywhere and, at only $25 per ticket, one of the best theatrical values now running in Chicago!

macbeth at city lit theatre

Hart’s smart direction gets to the terrifying tragic core of Shakespeare’s  ‘Scottish Play.’  Macbeth is all about the lust for power that finds friends betraying each other where blinding ambition of a general and his wife propel them to kill to feed their lust for power. We see Scotland become filled with murder and violence. Hart illuminates the stage with bloody red to underscore the killing.

Macbeth is a psychological study that finds Macbeth (Steve Hadnagy plays the general/king marvelously) suffering from delusional and paranoid behavior with loads of guilt as he gains the Scottish throne only to be obsessed with retaining his power. Lady Macbeth (Cameron Feagan was intensely effective) uses her seductive power over men to gain her desires.

Director Susan Hart’s haunting use of the witches (Heather Townsend, Shawna Tucker and Sarah Pretz) complete with scary persona enhanced with looming sound effects and red lighting rendered an eerie atmosphere where supernatural witches, ghosts and “strange imaginings” linger.

When King Duncan (Michael Pacas) visits Macbeth’s castle, he is killed as Macbeth and his lady lust for his throne. Macduff (Michael Sherwin) and Lennox (Drew Longo) are suspicious of Macbeth. They leave Scotland with Malcolm (James Elly) as Macbeth’s tyrannical rule grows more vicious.

Macbeth begins to dwell upon the Three Witches earlier prophecies of which several became true. He worries about the prophecy concerning Banquo (John Arthur Lewis) as the “primogenitor of kings.” Macbeth hires men to kill Banquo and his children.  Malcolm and Macduff, in exile in England, raise an army to dethrone Macbeth.  Filled with visceral and hair-raisingly spooky scenes, this Macbeth is creepy and quite intoxicating. The entire cast was articulate, eloquent and possessed a clear understanding and a valid interruption of Shakespeare.

You’d be hard pressed to witness better storefront Shakespeare. Kudos to director Susan Hart with directorial assistance from Jeffrey Carlson for aiding and teaching an amazing cast about the nuances and methods required to play Shakespeare effectively. Hart demonstrates that she is also a fine director besides her being one of the premiere classical acting teacher/coach. Her cast has learned much from her. This is terrific ensemble work that respects The Bard’s tragedy.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

At City Lit Theatre, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr, Chicago, IL, call 773-293-3682,, tickets are $25, some Thursdays at 8 pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 40 minutes with intermission.

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