William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” has been performed hundreds, if not thousands, of times but director Craig Hower has added a new wrinkle to his version of the timeless classic, which will run at Port Tobacco Players Theater through Feb. 13.
The play stars Paul Morris as Macbeth, Kaitelyn Bauer Dieguez as Lady Macbeth — “I’ve wanted to play that part as far as I can remember,” she said — Riley Seaman as Malcolm and Neil Twohig in the role of Banquo.
“You get to see one of Shakespeare’s arguably greatest works done very well by a very good cast with a very good production team behind it,” said Morris, who lives in La Plata and is the lead video producer for the Hubble space telescope at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “At the end of the day it’ll be a very nice night of theater, and there are really awesome sword fights.”
William Shakespeare’s dark tale of the bloody rise to power of a Scottish lord and the price that must be paid to keep that power. Upon receiving a prophecy that he will one day become king, Macbeth with the spurring of his wife, sets forth to fulfill the prophecy only to be consumed by madness and guilt.
But Hower has added a few wrinkles of his own to the play, which was written sometime around 1606 or 1607.
“After 450 years everyone’s done it every which way but loose, but we’ve done some things very differently insomuch as the witches, which start this whole ball rolling,” Hower said, referring to actresses Shemika Renee, Joanne Fuessel and Jenny Liese. “We’ve decided they have skin in the game and they are going to benefit by the events they set into motion. And we did this without changing any dialogue. We just see them progress during the course of the show and it’s going to be really neat to see how audiences respond to that. Like anything, we’ll either hit the mark or miss it by a mile.”
Bauer Dieguez, who last appeared in 2019’s “James and the Giant Peach” and last directed “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” the following year, is excited to be in the show.
“I’ve studied Shakespeare a lot and I’ve always loved the bard and anytime there’s a production nearby doing one of his shows I want to be a part of it,” said the Waldorf resident, who has appeared in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and “Much Ado About Nothing.” “He’s one of the most brilliant writers in history. You can put it on a bare stage and everybody has everything they need by what the actors say and I just appreciate that.”
Bauer Dieguez, who lives in Waldorf and is a stay-at-home mother, said she thinks Lady Macbeth — who appears on stage with a real dog — is misunderstood.
“She’s often seen as just a straight villain without any redeeming qualities, and I don’t feel she is that way,” she said. “She mentions losing a child and she hasn’t been able to be a mother, so she failed at that so her driving goal is to make Macbeth the greatest man he can be, and that is king. She hasn’t been able to accomplish something that should have been her job, but she can accomplish this. She can’t create a king by giving birth to one so she’s going to make one out of her husband.”
Morris said playing the lead character in a play for the first time is “terrifying.”
“I’ve never really seen myself as a leading man so I’m not sure I didn’t want it,” he said, “but I knew that if I had gotten it, I would be extremely intimidated just because there’s centuries of baggage an expectations that have come with the character listed famous actors.”
Morris, who said it’s easier for him to memorize Shakespeare than regular language because “just the way the lines are they fit better in my head,” said playing the lead was not a walk in the park.
“This play is very short compared to all the other Shakespearian plays, so his emotions kind of at times it’s very difficult to follow the arc from one scene to the next,” Morris said. “He’ll kind of pinball so I’ve been trying to walk a tightrope to make sure that I try and get it. I need to make sure he’s real and the make sure the audience trusts that he’s real.”
Other cast members include John Swann (in the role of Ross), Nathan Daetwyler (Fleance), Michael Mickey (Duff) and Kate Jones (Lady MacDuff).
“It’s unfortunate that as Macbeth I get more focus because all of the supporting cast is doubling and tripling their roles and that’s much more difficult,” Morris said, “but everyone’s been doing a really good job at making really distinct characters.”
The play is produced by Carol Charnock, the Dramaturge is Grace Hanson, Ben Simpson serves as choreographer, fight director is Casey Kaleba and the stage manager is Cindy Johnson in the approximately two hour play, which begins with a dramatic fight scene.
“I asked the cast early on in the process if they knew the story of Macbeth and few of them did,” Hower said. “Everybody’s heard the name, but nobody really knows the story so it was kind of fun. It’s been delightful to watch them. This means that I’m coming at it from this direction and that changes how I’m going to approach it and it’s been very organic and lovely to watch.”