Current temperature in Boston - 62 °
Get access to a personalized news feed, our newsletter and exclusive discounts on everything from shows to local restaurants, All for free.
Already a member? Sign in.
The Bay State Banner
The Bay State Banner

Trending Articles

Concord Town Meeting members pressure school committee to rename middle school

Banner [Virtual] Art Gallery

Banner [Virtual] Art Gallery


Shakespeare’s Macbeth, live under the stars

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company brings free production to Boston Common

Susan Saccoccia

A recipient of NEA Arts Journalism fellowships in dance, theater and music, Susan reviews visual and performing arts in the U.S. and overseas.

Shakespeare’s Macbeth, live under the stars
Commonwealth Shakespeare Company in rehearsal for “Macbeth.” PHOTO: COURTESY COMMONWEALTH SHAKESPEARE COMPANY

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company presents “Macbeth” in its annual Free Shakespeare on the Common production. On stage July 19 through Aug. 6, the play transforms the grassy knoll near the Parkman Bandstand into a spectacle of intrigue and violence driven by a powerful pair hungry for still more power.

Fresh from heroic battlefield victories, Scottish nobles Macbeth and Banquo head home, where a promotion awaits Macbeth as a reward from the king. Along the way, a trio of witches greets Macbeth as “king hereafter” and hails Banquo as father of future kings. Their riddle-like prophecies unleash unbridled ambition in Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth, who murder all standing in their way, including the king’s successors and their children, to secure the crown.

Omar Robinson plays Banquo in the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company production of “Macbeth.” PHOTO: COMMONWEALTH SHAKESPEARE COMPANY

Despite its steadily mounting body count, “Macbeth” is at core about crimes of the heart. “This play surprises me all the time,” says actor Omar Robinson, whose character, Banquo, does not survive beyond the third of five acts. “It’s one of Shakespeare’s most violent plays,” says Robinson, speaking with the Banner by phone, “but I’m entranced by the journey of Macbeth and his wife. At heart, they want good things for themselves, and maybe for their country. This play is about how one decision can set you on a downward spiral — what can happen if you act before you think.”

The production is directed by Steven Maler, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (CSC)’s founding artistic director, and he has assembled a top-notch cast and creative team.

Macbeth is played by Faran Tahir, who in 1996 performed as Oberon in CSC’s first Free Shakespeare on the Common production, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Recently appearing in the acclaimed Broadway production of “The Kite Runner,” Tahir also has numerous film credits, including “Star Trek” and “Iron Man.”  The role of Lady Macbeth is performed by stage, TV and film actor Joanne Kelly.

Among the cast’s award-winning actors are the versatile Marianna Bassham as Malcolm, the king’s son; agile Jesse Hinson as the First Witch; and Nael Nacer, as the king’s loyal friend Macduff. Nacer conjured an entrancing Caliban in the CSC’s summer 2021 production of “The Tempest,” and recently concluded a New York run with Mikhail Baryshnikov in an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard.” All three actors, as well as Robinson, are members of the Boston-based Actors’ Shakespeare Project’s resident acting company.

And like all Shakespeare plays, “Macbeth” has an element of humor, injected by 35-year Trinity Repertory Company veteran Fred Sullivan Jr. as Lady Macbeth’s tipsy porter.

“We all follow Steve’s lead and vision,” says Robinson. “He’s also very open as a director. Building a world of relationships among our characters is a team sport. As a long-serving battlefield family, we talk about who’s the little brother, and who we admire, avoid and fear.”

Reflecting on his role in this summer’s production, he says, “Although they are similar in a lot of ways, Banquo is a foil to Macbeth. With his child, Banquo has a safety net, the lifeline of family. I’m exploring what it is to have love for family as a power point — the source of his strength. I see the world as a Black man, and I bring my full self to this process. My Banquo has my rhythms, my energies and my love for family.”