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TBT’s atypical ‘Macbeth’ by women, about women, for all

Courtesy Photos This is the last weekend to experience Thunder Bay Theatre’s “Macbeth,” which features a lesbian couple and the lead role played by a woman, returning performer Erica Werner. She and Lady Macbeth, played by TBT newcomer Carey Blackburn, share tender moments throughout the tumultuous William Shakespeare classic. Only the pronouns were changed to reflect the role of Macbeth now being a “she.”

ALPENA — “Off, off, off with their heads! Dance, dance, dance till you’re dead!”

In this song, “Heads Will Roll,” the indie rock band Yeah Yeah Yeahs sets the stage for an unexpectedly delightful journey, giving a tragic new meaning to the term “club scene.”

Thunder Bay Theatre’s “Macbeth” features strong female murderers, a sultry trio of witches, and a whole lot of “wow” moments.

With a female lead, and no language changed but the pronouns, it’s no surprise to see a lesbian couple experiencing the same trials that the originally male-female duo would have undergone. But that one small change makes a huge difference. And that’s the point, according to director Molly Stricker, who led an all-female leadership team in this masterful display of creative talent.

“This play is about power, guilt, blame and passion,” Stricker writes in her director’s note in the program. “This production is about womanhood, and the experiences that I have had as a woman both in professional and personal contexts in my life. I hope that you will be open to my story, and to the actors who are also sharing their stories with you tonight. Openness leads to questions. Questions lead to conversation. Conversation leads to understanding. And understanding leads to love, equality, and hope.”

Erica Werner

She explains that casting a female lead was done to spotlight the struggles women have even when given powerful roles within a system that is set up for them to fail.

“What happens when one is forced to play a game that was designed for them to lose?” Stricker’s note continues. “How do people with marginalized identities handle paranoia, guilt and isolation? What are the actions one is willing to take to ensure the safety of oneself and the ones they love? Can violence and aggression ever truly change the course of history?”

These are questions she hopes the performance answers, or at least encourages attendees to ponder and discuss.

As for entertainment value, this play gets an “A” for amazing, amusing, and astounding.

From the moment one enters the theater, the backlit stage glows with simultaneously bright and dark mystery, as the witches come out one by one, moving sinuously and sinfully, setting the scene for a scandalous and stirring saga.

Carey Blackburn

The choreography is decadent, and the acting is superb. Audience members are transported into a crowded cavern of characters dripping with desire to commit crimes of passion, which Macbeth of course does, with the conniving conviction her wife drives deep into her heart, mind and soul. Her passion is power, and she will stop at nothing to get it.

Erica Werner as Macbeth is the epitome of a strong woman warrior. Her depiction is entirely believable, and her relationship with Lady Macbeth, played by Carey Blackburn, is realistic and very human. Because of such great acting, the playgoer empathizes with these characters, despite the fact that they are speaking a barely understandable version of English, and that they are treacherous murderers.

The witches, played by Desi Rodriguez, Sierra Glosson, and Emily Ahrens, turn the play into a demonic netherworldly living nightmare that quietly whispers death with a side of fun.

Reed Horsley as Macbeth’s right-hand man Banquo provides some dark comic relief and excellent acting before and after his robotically choreographed death scene, which is executed with such talent one wishes they could rewind it to watch it again.

Incredible sound mixing, expertly operated intricate lighting, and modern creative costuming round out an addictive performance that everyone should see at least once.

Reed Horsley

Some people may be shocked to see two women kissing (briefly) onstage. But it is 2019.

Mature older children might enjoy this show, but it does have dark themes and some violent scenes.

Along with Stricker, the production staff includes choreographers MaryKathryn Kopp and Rodriguez, Associate Director, Production Manager and Sound Designer Tabitha Camp, Fight Director Quan “Sam” Sun, Scenic Designer Bridgid Burge, Costume Designer Eileen Thoma, Lighting Designer and Sound Consultant Chris Riley, Technical Director Jason Luther, and Lexie Lino on stage crew.

The cast also includes Adriana Helinski as Fleance, Jacob Kerzner as Duncan, Lucas Moquin as Malcolm, Ely Irving as Donalbain, Stefon Funderburke as Macduff, Sun as Lennox, Jordan Hand as Ross, Kerzner as the Porter, Joey Lanier as Seyton, Austin Heath as Angus, and Kingsli Kraft as Gentlewoman.

“Macbeth” is showing at 7:30 p.m. tonight, Friday and Saturday, and the final performance will be at 2 p.m. Sunday. This production is sponsored by Family Enterprise Inc. Adult tickets are $20 each, military tickets with ID are $16, teen tickets (13-17) are $12, and tickets for children 12 and younger are $8. Call the box office at 989-354-2267. TBT is located at 400 N. 2nd Ave. in Alpena.