The “Scottish play” in Cedar City

The “Scottish play” in Cedar City August 14, 2019


Engelstad Theater Beverley Center for the Arts
The Engelstad Theater in Cedar City back when it was new and its grass and trees were still pretty pathetic.
(Photograph by my wife)


We’re just back from a performance of Macbeth in Cedar City.  I regret to say that, although (with my wife) I’m a dedicated fan of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, I did not care for this performance very much.  We’ve been coming faithfully every year for more than three decades, never missing a play during the regular season, seldom missing any of the fall plays, and this may have been the weakest performance that I’ve seen here.  Which is particularly unfortunate given the greatness of the play itself.


I thought the actors were, on the whole, without energy, passionless.  The whole performance seemed rather listless.  Even the fight scenes were unexciting.  I sometimes felt as if I were watching a reader’s theater performance of the play.  The lines were spoken without great clarity or feeling.  During the intermission, I heard a lady seated in the row ahead of me complain to her companion that, although she had actually recently read Macbeth, she was having a difficult time following the actors.  The most lively performance tonight was that of Armin Shimerman — whom some of you may recall from television — as the porter.


Anyway, I was disappointed.  I kept wondering whether I just wasn’t in the right mood, or something.  Afterwards, though, I talked it over with my wife, the theater major.  Her reaction was identical to mine.


Still, it’s Macbeth.  It’s Shakespeare.  In fact, it’s great Shakespeare.  So I don’t regret attending the performance.  Not even slightly.  For one thing, the language is glorious.


“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”


Macbeth’s response, above, to the death of his wife — who probably committed suicide on account of her consuming and well-justified guilt — is as good a summation of the nihilistic implications of the atheistic worldview as any that I can imagine.


And Banquo’s reminder to Macbeth after their encounter with the prophesying “weird sisters” out on the heath, which Macbeth would have done very well to heed, remains worthy of our attention today:


“But tis strange: And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, the Instruments of Darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray’s in deepest consequence.”


Posted from St. George, Utah



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