Have you ever had a free summer night and no idea how to spend it? Think no further. The Classical Theatre of Harlem presents Macbeth by William Shakespeare, directed by Carl Cofield. Be prepared to be spellbound by the magic of the Weird Sisters, whose magic comes alive through the use of effective projection (Katherine Freer) and lighting (Alan C. Edwards). Located in Marcus Garvey Park, Harlem at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater; the CTH along with the City Parks Summer Stage program creates an exhilarating rendition of the classic work.
Ty Jones plays the titular character Macbeth, whose descent to madness is matched with the darkening sky witnessed easily in the outdoor theater. Taking you back to the time of this “Scottish tragedy”, you’ll discover with little research that this version of the play resembles Haile Selassie’s reign in Ethiopia. The CTH’s history of inclusion of Black artists in their theatrical works is refreshingly progressive as you take note of the exclusion of people of color in theatre. Rachel Dozier-Ezell creates this resemblance to African culture in her choice of costume. The play, however, never deviates from text. You witness the tragic hero struggle against his guilt. A memorable moment occurs at the feast as Banquo’s ghost is represented by a clothed figure steadily advancing as well as an eerie projection of Banquo that is magnified onto the stage.
Speaking of memorable moments, the choreography by Tiffany Rea-Fisher is matched with the rhythmic beat of instruments leaving you enraptured in a hazy state of reality. Dances from the staff to possessive spirits compel the audience to applaud. The fights scenes (Emmanuel Brown) paired with the machetes’ glinting in the light as well as the increasing drum beat are stimulating and blood pumping. As entrancing as these scenes were, Roslyn Ruff’s scenes as Lady Macbeth can’t be stopped from being branded into your memory. Entering the narrative with powerful character, unafraid to tell her husband to “stick his courage to the sticky place”, it is obvious who pulls the strings. Watching her unravel as her ambition leads to unspeakable actions is as fascinating as seeing Macbeth lose his composure and compassion.
Ruff wasn’t the only actor to bring it to the table. The eerie trio of the Weird sisters played by Andrea Patterson, Afia Abusham, and Clymene Baugher enter with in swirls of mist and time stopping magic. They plague Macbeth in their warped voices as they tell him prophecies in sync. They appear hauntingly behind screens at their mention and demons trail at their wake. Their appearance tells you that stuff is about to go down. Don’t worry though, the entire play isn’t a haunting nightmare. The character of the porter played wonderfully by Anthony Vaughn Merchant brings humor to this otherwise dark play. Macduff and Malcolm played by Jason Delane and Brandon Carter respectively, bring new emotions to the play as they deal with the death their loved ones and newfound responsibilities. The cast as a whole did a tremendous performance and I hope to see this company’s work again
Tuesdays to Sundays at 8pm and Fridays at 8:30 pm until the end of July, you can watch this amazing and free performance. The Shakespearean dialect was not difficult to make out and the outdoor theater allowed sound to travel. People of all ages are allowed to attend. Early arrival grants you the chance to listen to a variety of bands and groups, whose listings can be found on the CTH website at www.cthnyc.org .