To every play there is a season, and Halloween is the perfect season for Shakespeare’s creepiest, witchiest play: The Tragedy of Macbeth. And so, tonight and tomorrow night at 8 p.m., The Vineyard Playhouse’s Shakespeare for the Masses project will offer a free, script-in-hand presentation of “the Scottish Play,” as actors superstitiously refer to it.
Trimmed to an hour in length, this rendering of Macbeth offers ghosts, witches, omens, murder, mayhem, intrigue, betrayal and the occasional familiar phrase (“double double, toil and trouble,” etc) — in short, all the best that Shakespeare has to offer. Whether you’re itching for politics or escapism, super-nationalism or supernaturalism, the creepy or the cultural, Macbeth is sure to satisfy.
Shakespeare for the Masses is the brainchild of Chelsea McCarthy and Nicole Galland, who a few weeks ago prepared and staged a well-received “annotated” abridgement of Hamlet. Their intention is to introduce Shakespeare-the-storyteller to people who might be leery of Shakespeare-the-guy-who-writes-in-strange-old-fashioned-English. As such, their edited versions feature a narrator who introduces the story and occasionally comments on it. The result, judging from reactions to Hamlet, is an entertaining and enlightening evening, free of pain and free of charge.
The cast will meet in its entirety for the first time today at noon to prepare for tonight’s 8 p.m. curtain. Because they’ve worked together before, that kind of time-constraint actually adds to the inspiration and excitement. For example, although Ms. McCarthy and Ms. Galland have spent days preparing for today’s rehearsal, they’re expecting plenty of improvisational moments. “You have three talented actresses playing witches, muttering incantations and spells ... anything could happen!” Ms. Galland says gleefully. “One of the best bits in Hamlet had literally never been rehearsed, and the audience ate up the informal, spontaneous moments that wouldn’t really be ‘allowed’ in a full production.
Of course, Macbeth is a more somber, spooky play than Hamlet. “Definitely fewer laugh lines,” Ms.Galland says. “But lots more ooo’s and oooh’s. More shivers down your back. Not nightmare shivers, though. Kids will love it. Kids love Macbeth. M.J. [M.J. Bruder Munafo, artistic director of the Playhouse] did a 20-minute version with the kids this summer in Summer Stars, and they were all over it!”
Macbeth features veteran Island actor Christopher Brophy in the title role; the rest of the cast includes Amy Sabin, Mac Young, Christopher Kann, Brian Ditchfield, Brooke Hardman Ditchfield, Chelsea McCarthy, Jill Macy, Molly Purves, Gerry Yukevich, Xavier Powers and Nicole Galland.
Macbeth will be performed tonight and Saturday night, Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, at 8 p.m., at the Vineyard Playhouse, 24 Church street, Vineyard Haven. Running time is just over an hour.
On Friday night, the playhouse staff will host their Halloween Haven with free cider, coffee and candy. Families are invited to stop by the theatre on their trick-or-treating rounds from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Free tickets for The Tragedy of Macbeth are available on the night of the performance. Advance reservations are not necessary.