At play

Shakespeare in the Park: By the Pricking of My Thumbs (Review)

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The Heart of America Shakespeare Festival has been a tradition for my family for the last ten years, and for Kansas City for the last twenty years. Held in Southmoreland Park, just off the Plaza (or as we locals like to say, the Plaah-zaaah), Kansas City puts together a professional production of one play a year under the stars, free to anyone who walks through the gates.

This year, as this blog title indicates, was the Scottish play, featuring the character MacBeth (played by John Rensenhouse). There is an old tradition that you should not say the name of the play, lest you invoke the curse, but it is acceptable to name the main character. True to the curse, this year there was a major funding issue that almost stopped the festival in its tracks, but fortunately the good people of Kansas City ponied up and drove off the bad fortune.

[amazon_link id=”B00443FMKM” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ][/amazon_link]This is the second time I’ve seen the Scottish play under the stars in my life. The first was when I was a teenager on the central coast of California. My friend and I saw the play, done by a highly respected local theater group, in the round, with Lady MacBeth portrayed as a sympathetic character (which was an amazing feat of acting and directing!) As usual, husband and I ‘pre-watched’ a movie version of the play to brush up on our Elizabethean English – in this case the fine version with Patrick Stewart in the title role, set in an alternative modern fascist Scotland.

Heart of America Shakespeare Festival’s version didn’t feature a sympathetic lady, but a deliciously wanton and bold Lady MacBeth played by Kim Martin Cotton, who embraced the evil and wonder of the three weird sisters before they drove her to madness. The three sisters themselves were delightfully weird and wicked and wanton women who seemed to simply enjoy the chaos they created for its own sake.

Husband and I met Cousin and Sorta Cousin and Husband’s Sister at the park a couple of hours before the play started, feasted on our picnic of lox and sushi and various cheeses, and fruits and crackers and homemade bread and homemade fried chicken and sangria and lemonade, and relaxed in our folding chairs to enjoy the show. As the sun set, the drama built and the park was transformed to the medieval highlands so completely it was easy to forget where we were.

The set design was simple and incredibly effective, with Mother Nature adding her own lighting effects (beautifully atmospheric) at the dramatic end of the play. The acting, as always, was superb, with the Ladies MacBeth and MacDuff (Cinnamon Schultz), MacDuff’s small son (Whitaker Hoar), and Banquo (Bruce Roach) all giving standout performances.

The costuming was traditional Scottish Highlander garb (yay kilts!) and the pacing and direction was just stunning. Every year we think that the company can’t top what they did the year before, and every year they produce yet another amazing production.

The Scottish play runs during the Shakespeare Festival in Southmoreland Park through July 3, 2011, nightly at 8:00 pm except June 27. One remaining ASL interpreted production is on Wednesday, June 22. If you don’t want to bring your own chairs or blankets, and want to pay to sit up front, it will cost you $25. If you want a program and pin, that will be $5.

But if you are on a budget and just want to enjoy a little Free Will, grab your blanket or your folding chairs, bring some picnic goods and a libation or three, and come on down. You’ll be glad you did.


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