reviewed by Daniel Shock

Shakespeare in the Park. When I have been an actor in a Shakespeare production, it is most often outside…in the park. One park in Tulsa, OK and two in Noblesville, IN. It is a wonderful tradition in communities all around the world. A summer evening with ancient stories, wine and bug spray. When the weather and environment co-operate, these evenings can be magical.

This summer, The Noblesville Cultural Arts Commission has produced it’s 27th iteration of Shakespeare in the Park at the Federal Hill Commons in Noblesville and brought us: The Tragedy of Macbeth.

Witches (from left, Amber Shatto, Nikki Lynch and Mellie Sokolski) taunt Macbeth (Matt Anderson) in a scene from NCAC’s production of “Macbeth”

Macbeth begins with three witches (Mellie Sokolski, Nikki Lynch & Amber Shatto). They predict their next meeting will be with Macbeth. Shortly after, the witches do meet with Generals Macbeth (Matt Anderson) and Banquo (Eric Dixon) where they predict Macbeth’s reward for his victories in service to King Duncan (Ken Klingenmeier). These rewards consist of titles and the prediction that eventually Macbeth will be king. Their prophecy also includes General Banquo – that he will be “father of kings”. Both men are skeptical, but when they come before King Duncan and he bestows the title of “Thane of Cawdor” on Macbeth, he is convinced and becomes ambitious. He writes to his wife, Lady Macbeth (Rhonda Tinz-Mize), telling her of his good news. Lady Macbeth also becomes ambitious and convinces her husband to murder King Duncan. Macbeth is doubtful, but is finally convinced when she challenges his manhood. Once the murder is committed, Macbeth and his wife are then wracked with guilt and paranoia. Forced to commit more and more murders to protect himself from enmity and suspicion, he soon becomes a tyrannical ruler. The bloodbath and consequent civil war swiftly take Macbeth and Lady Macbeth into the realms of madness and death.

Rhonda Tinz-Mize takes the stage as Lady Macbeth in a scene from NCAC’s production of “Macbeth”

Macbeth is a bloody story. The action, while thrilling, is presented in such a way that it should not be too disturbing for young people. One of the murders on stage is a young child, but it is not presented in a realistic and grisly manner. The actor’s screams offstage are more unsettling than anything seen onstage. You should use your own judgment, but I would not be too concerned for my own children. We have discussions about pretending and play. Stories are ways for us to understand and frame real life – they are not themselves real life.

This production of Macbeth offers a delightful evening of thrills, scares and laughs. I normally like to start with the positive parts of production before getting to the nitpicks, but I really feel I should start with this point. Before I lay it out – I will admit that this is not a fair nit to pick.

Shakespeare in the Park has a mission. Part of that mission is to spread the love of Shakespeare far and wide. For that reason, it is free and it is brisk. Almost every play they present is cut for time. Hamlet would be over four hours if the entire text was performed. Macbeth is the shortest tragedy, so it wouldn’t be that long, but it would be about an hour longer than the 90 minutes of this production. Okay – so my one complaint: many of my favorite lines were cut. As an actor who covets the role of Macbeth, that kills me. As an audience member, I feel like it made some of the guilt that Macbeth and his wife wrestle with less clear. I feel like this is my personal problem…the audience seemed engaged and loved it. They laughed and thrilled to what was before them. Every single person I talked to after the show had a great time and were happy that they were there. I feel guilty even writing this complaint, but I would feel like I was not being honest if I didn’t.

Macbeth (Matt Anderson) laments his actions in a scene from NCAC’s production of “Macbeth”

Matt Anderson deserves high praise for his portrayal of Macbeth. He portrayed a man who is at once entitled, doubt ridden and vile. (I felt he was really going to injure everyone with his sword he was so zealous with his swing!) His chemistry with Rhonda Tinch-Mize is critical. Ms. Tinch-Mize gives a career highlight performance as Lady Macbeth descends into madness. Without these two performances, the show would not work and these two pull off a difficult job (especially considering the deep cuts to the text).

Other standouts include, Ken Klingenmeier, as King Duncan, who brings his wonderful and royal voice of authority to the role. The witches, played by Mellie Sokolski, Nikki Lynch & Amber Shatto, were at once creepy and alluring. Glenn Dobbs as MacDuff was effective in his grief. Eric Dixon and Matt Hartzburg each distinguished themselves as Banquo and Malcom respectively. Paul Haskin, whom I have never seen on stage before, was an utter delight as the Porter. He brought some much-needed humor to the evening. He was outstanding. Finally, another surprise from someone unknown to me was Morgan Morton as Lady McDuff. She was excellent in her short time on stage. Her heartbreak and terror were portrayed with great skill.

Paul Haskin brings the Porter to life in a scene from NCAC’s production of “Macbeth”

Directors Rob Heighway and Mark Tumey did a fantastic job casting the show – a great mix of familiar actors and new faces that I will look forward to seeing again. The set by Rob Heighway was simple and effective. Sound Design by Geoff Lynch was well done. Sound effects were great. In general dialog was clear and easy to understand. There were moments (very few)where microphones cut out as actors were talking. Lighting by Eric Matters was luminous and fun when it needed to be. Costumer Linda Grow did a wonderful job of getting everyone in period apparel – especially the women. The witch’s costumes looked especially great. Finally, the fight choreography by Scott Russell was high energy, believable and fun to watch.

McDuff (Glenn Dobbs) battles Macbeth (Matt Anderson) in a scene from NCAC’s production of “Macbeth”

Despite my issues with the cutting of the text, this is a wonderful Shakespeare in the Park experience. Please, if you are available, make the effort to grab a blanket or a lawn chair and go to Federal Hill Commons to see this Macbeth!

Macbeth will be presented by the Noblesville Cultural Arts Commission on July 26th & 27th and August 1st, 2nd, & 3rd at 8:30 pm at Federal Hill Commons in Noblesville, IN (175 Logan St, Noblesville, IN 46060, USA). Admission is free.

The cast and crew of NCAC’s 2019 Shakespeare in the Park production of “Macbeth”