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Tapestry Creates Visual ‘Macbeth’

As she takes on an exploration of prophecy, murder, guilt and madness, Ember Martin leaves the words to Shakespeare, while she fleshes out the action.

Martin, director of Tapestry Theatre’s production of “The Tragedy of Macbeth” at the Nannie J. Lee Center, trusts William Shakespeare’s language to tell the story and has her actors concentrate on clear enunciation and the meaning of many of the speeches while she contributes illustrative stage pictures and atmosphere.

She also fills the hall with witches. Shakespeare only calls for three, a trio who famously babble about bubbles, but the program lists nine. Martin has witches in the audience and the aisles, on the lip of the stage and hovering from behind and above the action.

If there was ever any doubt that Macbeth could have avoided the fate prophesied for him at the beginning of the play, Martin banishes it and simply follows the workings of the spell, concentrating on the simple center of the sometimes overly complex story.

That spell is aided immensely by set designer Jarret Baker’s single low platform, which serves as woods, a hall, a hill and every other location in the play. Smoke and mist rise from it, catching the colors and angles of D. Scott Graham’s lights to complete the illusion.

Tom Nunan portrays Macbeth simply. Method actors frequently impose layers of psychological complexity on the part, none of which seem to have survived Nunan’s straightforward interpretation or Martin’s direction.

Nunan is new to local theater, having recently come south from Kodiak, Alaska, where he served on the U.S. Coast Guard base. Here he is matched with Liz Williams, a familiar face and name to frequent theatergoers in the area. She makes Lady Macbeth’s ambitious plotting and scheming crystal clear, then does a searing mad scene (“Out, damned spot!”).

As Macduff, the Thane of Fife who ultimately dispatches Macbeth, only Rick Rodgers seems to be unable to live up to Martin’s standard for clarity and enunciation. He swallows some of the key phrases, while he loses himself in over-emoting.

The balance of the cast, from David Mahl as the Banquo whose ghost haunts Macbeth, to Dan Staicer as Duncan, the king Macbeth kills, to D. Scott Graham as Malcolm (who succeeds Macbeth on the throne of Scotland) give clean, clear performances.

The performances are being staged at the Kauffman auditorium in the Nannie J. Lee Center, a relatively new venue for Tapestry. It’s a big hall with a spacious stage and there is a temptation to fill that stage with scenery, under the theory that effective drama requires spectacle.

Martin adopts the opposite approach, using Baker’s single platform set to great advantage through the placement of her actors, with well-staged fight and battle sequences choreographed by Chuck Martin. The spell is aided by a sound design by Graham, pulling triple duty on- and backstage. His sounds add to rather than distract from the mood.

This is Martin’s first effort with Tapestry. It is a good beginning raising hopes for future work as she has also joined Tapestry’s board of directors.