“MacBeth” Heats Up Richmond Stage at Agecroft Hall

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    MacBeth from Quill Theatre is part of the Richmond Shakespeare Festival at Agecroft Hall through July 30. (Photos by Aaron Sutten)

    Agecroft Hall is not only a delightful place to picnic and a synthesis of Tudor and twentieth century styles that incorporates many of the decorative features and structural elements of the original Agecroft Hall in England, its outdoor courtyard stage also lends itself well to unique lighting, design, and audience interaction. All of this makes Agecroft perfect for Quill Theatre’s Macbeth, which relies heavily on a certain pressure-cooker type of atmosphere as the play progresses and Macbeth grows more desperate and less stable.

    As the sun goes down at Agecroft, the production design of the show shines. Sound, which is used to great effect for the entirety of the play, can be more intensely accompanied by interesting uses of light and dramatic props. In addition, the stage fighting and action elements added a fervor and realism due to the impressive choreography from Elliot Emadian and convincing performances from Axle Burtness as MacBeth and Jeffrey Cole as Macduff.

    The highlight of Quill Theatre’s production of Macbeth was its lead performances from the Thane himself (Axle Burtness) and Lady Macbeth (Rebecca Turner), whose chemistry and emotionally charged interactions captured audience attention, and communicate the Shakespeare vernacular (which for some can be difficult to follow, especially on top of the play’s unfamiliar Scottish setting) with clarity and emotion.

    Thomas Hockey, a native of the United Kingdom who is performing in his first play in the United States, is a standout as a compelling and haunting Banquo, commanding the stage even as a silent and stone-faced ghost. Additionally, the three witches (Irene Kuykendall, Levi Meerovich, Jessica Meyer) work in stirring cohesion, helped by the eerily creative costume design from Anna Bialkowski.

    Director Jemma Alix Levy moves ten actors through twenty-five roles with precision. Special kudos go to wardrobe manager Jackie Cook for getting many of the actors in and out of costume – quickly and efficiently – on a hot July night.

    Macbeth is an impressive and memorable addition to Quill Theatre’s annual Richmond Shakespeare Festival at Agecroft Hall. Although, a fair warning is necessary – an evening spent outside in Richmond in July is an evening shared with the humidity and the bugs, so bring your bug spray – the natural environment does not detract from the production.

    Mixing an intriguing production with captivating performances, the show succeeds in communicating the advanced language in an approachable and visually appealing way, from Macbeth’s rise to his meteoric fall. Recommended for ages thirteen and up.

    Quill Theatre’s MacBeth is showing Thursday through Sunday at 7:30 p.m. through July 30 as part of the Richmond Shakespeare Festival. For important rain delay information, showtimes, and tickets (including a sweet student discount), visit Quill Theatre.