The Tragedy of Macbeth Showcased on Topanga Stage

Max Lawrence and Willow Geer as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.
Photo: Ian Flanders


Circling the News Contributor

You can’t help wonder if Shakespeare’s  Macbeth is reprised at particular moments when we need a refresher course on the disastrous consequences of excessive power and unchecked ambition.

The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum last produced Macbeth in 2008, the year marked by financial collapse as a result of cheap, wantonly issued mortgages.

The slow corruption of Macbeth, a gentleman of honor and a superlative soldier, sets the play in motion.

While ambition is proper for a man of his position, the witches’ prophetic suggestion that “thou shalt be king hereafter!” ignites Macbeth’s imagination that he might hasten his crown by murdering Duncan, the Scottish king, thus speeding up the prophecy of future kingship.

All of this unfolds in the first act. Indeed, Macbeth is Shakespeare’s shortest play, focusing on the cascade of murders and crushing guilt that follows Macbeth until the tragic end.

We learn that by murdering Duncan, Macbeth murders “his better nature.” As soon as it is done, his imagination fuels his insecurity and fear. He ponders Duncan’s peaceful sleep while his own murderous mind is “full of scorpions.”

Not alone in his plot, Macbeth finds both reassurance and steely resolve from his wife, who suffers none of his failing courage and questions his masculinity when he wavers.

With thunder and lightning brightening the witches’ appearance, the outdoor stage in Topanga offers a perfect setting for the ensuing mysterious and unsettling mood. Action on stage is enhanced by the versatility of the setting.

The balcony, the platform stage right and the hilly, woodsy terrain behind the stage offer versatility of place and time.

The cast, many stalwarts of the Theatricum “family,” met the mark by exploring the psychological aspects of Macbeth’s crisis unraveling to the ultimate tragedy.

Max Lawrence and Willow Geer embody a passionate couple, who ultimately rely only on one another as they allow ambition to destroy them.

Other notable cast members are Banquo (Jess Wiesen), Macbeth’s fellow general in the king’s army who notes his kinsman’s dangerous attraction to the flame of ambition. And Malcolm (Cavin (CR) Mohrhardt), one of Duncan’s sons who gives a self-effacing soliloquy on his unworthiness to become king.

Under the direction of producing artistic director Ellen Geer, who also directed the 1994 and 2008 productions, Macbeth was the opening show in the Theatricum Botanicum’s 50th anniversary celebration. Guests participated in the milestone achievement with a champagne toast and Scottish shortbread following the performance.

Other plays in this year’s repertory season include: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, War of the Roses and A Perfect Ganesh. For schedules and tickets, visit or call (310)455-3723.

Actors make their entrance from the hillside at the Theatricum.

Photo: Ian Flanders


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