‘Macbeth in Stride’ retells the classic play with music and feminism
Audiences praised the local production’s introspective messages
Lady Macbeth takes center stage amidst music, metacommentary and a message of ambition in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of “Macbeth in Stride.”
The new production by Whitney White tells the classic story of “Macbeth” from Lady Macbeth’s perspective. Lady Macbeth is also played by White.
The four-character production opened Oct. 10 at the Klein Theatre in Penn Quarter.
The performance follows the broadest story beats from the original play but starts without Macbeth himself (played by Charlie Thurston). “Macbeth in Stride” expands on the conflict between Lady Macbeth and her husband — which Shakespeare hinted at in the original play — and on Lady Macbeth’s ambitions for power, offering commentary on women’s roles in Shakespearean plays.
All the while, an on-stage band allows the characters to sing a symphony of 13 songs, which fall into a mix of pop, rock, gospel and R&B.
In the show, Lady Macbeth’s motivation — a longing for power — is curbed by the monarchical system the character lives in. Her supporting cast tells her so — the three witches (played by Stacey Sargeant, Ximone Rose and Chelsea Lee Williams) convince Lady Macbeth to marry Macbeth and become queen if she wants power.
Despite her opposition to the relationship, Lady Macbeth does marry Macbeth and takes the throne after singing a ballad with him. She makes jokes at Macbeth’s expense and questions why she has to choose between love and authority.
The two later share a scene when Lady Macbeth confronts Macbeth for being able to fight people to keep his crown while she is pushed to the sidelines and set to die off-stage.
In addition to the production’s focus on Lady Macbeth, “Macbeth in Stride” blames Shakespeare for limiting Lady Macbeth’s power to her husband’s.
As told by Lady Macbeth herself, the 16th-century playwright wrote Lady Macbeth to be played by men, for men.
“Why do they write us this way?” Lady Macbeth asks. “Why do they imagine us this way?”
As the plot thickens, the metacommentary and conflict combine as Lady Macbeth realizes her impending death.
In the original “Macbeth,” Lady Macbeth goes mad and commits suicide off-stage after she and her husband kill King Duncan and two guards.
In the retelling, Lady Macbeth shares this point with the audience.
“In the play, you meet Lady Macbeth for all of two seconds,” Lady Macbeth tells the audience. “And then it’s all about [Macbeth].”
Though readers did not get to know her as well in the original text, members of the audience enjoyed learning more about Lady Macbeth in White’s production.
“I enjoyed it very much,” audience member Lila Leigh said. “I loved the music and I loved the story.”
Jokes made at the expense of Macbeth and Shakespearean language and shortcomings landed particularly well for audience member Elizabeth Teal.
“She found ways to make it funny,” Teal said, referring to White’s Lady Macbeth. “I was not expecting to laugh.”
Audience member Amanda Gittleson said asking the audience to question the role of women in Shakespeare’s plays brought a new twist to the classic.
“Shakespeare is so studied over time and I think it’s always interesting to look at the text and revisit it,” Gittleson said. “I liked how she forced you to constantly think about it in a modern way.”
For audience member Rafael Luloa, the introspective questions, perspective switch, music and stage design brought energy to the story.
“It’s Macbeth for a new generation, in a way,” Luloa said.
“Macbeth in Stride” is at the Klein Theatre until Oct. 29. Tickets start at $35.
This article was edited by Sara Winick, Patricia McGee and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Charlie Mennuti.