California Shakespeare Theater

California Shakespeare Theater, Orinda, California
Through October 13, 2019
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Victor Malana Maog
Starring Rey Lucas, Liz Sklar


It’s no wonder that William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” is the most-produced of his tragedies. “The Scottish play” has all the elements that have appealed to broad audiences for over four hundred years: weird witches, exciting battles, blind ambition, and violent murders, with the doubt, brooding, and madness that follows, and the comeuppance and retribution that sets things right in the end. And it has much more. “Macbeth” contains some of Shakespeare’s most eloquent language and memorable soliloquies.

As directed by Victor Malana Maog, Cal Shake’s rendition of “Macbeth” succeeded admirably. The sword action was exciting, the witches were scary, (although their atmospheric echoes made it tougher to understand them), and there was enough blood shed (and thrown with a pail, for that matter) to reinforce the theatrically of the work. The set (Scenic Design, Adam Rigg) a novel and striking two-story construction of Plexiglas and open spaces appeared simultaneously modern and medieval. The actors generally sparkled and maintained the right balance between moving the plot along quickly and reciting the brilliant words of the Bard slowly enough so that the audience could actually hear and appreciate them.

One of the difficulties in performing the role of Macbeth (Rey Lucas) is to present him as an outwardly self-confident and ruthless warrior who is ready to kill to slake his ambition, yet leave room in the portrayal to reveal his inward insecurity and willingness to be manipulated by his wife. It is left to Lady Macbeth (Liz Sklar) to push her husband past his hesitations. In this production, Lady Macbeth was a little short on the necessary ruthlessness. She was much more compelling when her guilt and madness overwhelmed her, as while performing the famous “Out, damned spot! out, I say! …” scene. Macbeth, on the other hand, came across as a bit too likable at times to wind up with his severed head in a bag. I almost felt sorry for him as he realizes that he has been taken in by the three witches.

Of the supporting roles, Warren David Keith, played a regal King Duncan and a funny drunken porter with real Shakespearean aplomb. And as Macduff, Dane Troy acted with convincing shock and pathos when he learns that his wife and children have been slaughtered: “All my pretty ones? /Did you say “all”? … What, all my pretty chickens and their dam/ At one fell swoop?”

This is the last production for Cal Shakes this season. If you haven’t yet experienced the magic of Shakespeare under the stars, accompanied perhaps by a picnic supper, by all means, go.

Cal Shakes advises the audience to dress warmly in layers since the temperature may dip down during evening performances. Blankets are available for a $2 donation. The complimentary shuttle from Orinda BART begins two hours before curtain. Tickets: $20-$94, with discounts for seniors, youth, students, military families, persons age 30 and under, and groups (subject to change).

This article originally appeared on Berkeleyside.

By Emily S. Mendel

© Emily S. Mendel 2019   All Rights Reserved

San Francisco ,
Emily S. Mendel, a writer and photographer, has been a regular contributor to since 2006, where she reviews theater, art, film, television and destinations. Ending her 30-year law practice has given Ms. Mendel the time to indulge in her love of travel and the arts, and to serve as the theater reviewer for