What's going on here: Macbeth speaks to the ages

Written by Bruce Barrett
 | Tuesday, 18 August 2009 19:12
The Gurnet Theatre Project wowed six nights of audiences these last two weeks with their outdoor production of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”  In the best tradition of “Hey, kids!  Let’s put on a show!” the GTP gathers sharp young talents, a can-do attitude, and unbounded imagination to bring free theater to the Miles Standish Park.  They’re sponsored by a grant from the Duxbury Cultural Council with funds from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and private donations from Duxbury businesses and families, along with a basket-passing at the end of the show.

Brian C. Fahey and Michelle M.K. Hatfield started GTP in the winter of early 2005, according to the program notes, with artists who are “young and innovative … energized and creative” to produce “theatre that is inventive and bold.”  Five years later they’re still pretty young, and most definitely bold, energized, and innovative.  You can learn more at their web site, (mind the spelling!).

I spoke to Director Michael Duncan Smith after the final show.  He was directing his still-energized cast for a spate of publicity photos in the gathering gloom.  They snapped into lively tableaux, some humorous but most as dark and harsh as the play itself.  Shakespeare’s presentation of assassination and tyranny captivates, but not with joy.  Rather, we find our dark sides laid bare and our horrors exposed not by imagined monsters or demons, but by our own human evils.  Macbeth isn’t haunted by a real ghost of the friend he murdered (Banquo), but by his own vision of his actions.  Lady Macbeth, who goads and tempts her husband to murder the king (Duncan) to gain the throne, may be “fiend-like” as Macduff claims, but she is humanly shocked by the actual deed.  Unreal monsters are suitable for children’s stories and Halloween.  True monsters are human, and all too often cloaked with beauty, wealth, power and above all, impunity.

Lady Macbeth muses in her famous soliloquy “Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?”

But she expresses a greater horror without meaning to do so.  Here’s the whole quote, from her sleep-walking scene:

Out, damned spot! Out, I say! … What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?—Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him? (from Shakespeare Navigators at

The Lady who instigated the deed now finds herself decompensating under the weight of guilt and horror, and sees (perhaps) the crumbling of her impunity.

“What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?”

She answers, as she struggles to remove the imagined mark from her hand, symbolically asserting that Duncan’s innocent blood will tell, and the flow of life, not death, is more than she can overcome.  Truth defeats tyrant claims of impunity; the blood of life cannot be staunched.

Danielle Muehlen (Lady Macbeth) and Victor Shopov (Macbeth) were chilling and beautiful as they brought the play to life.  Smith’s direction was crisp and tight, allowing the play, as he put it, to speak for itself.  All of the cast spoke Shakespeare’s English as if it were their own, self-possessed but never self-conscious, stark and never caricatured.  Signifying nothing, as Macbeth accused?  Hardly.  His famous dictum is paradox.  The Gurnet Theatre Project kids give us not mere “sound and fury,” but fundamental truth.