A picturesque and eerie ‘Macbeth’ from City of Fairfax Theatre Company

The City of Fairfax Theatre Company (CFTC) is currently presenting a Shakespeare in the Park-esque production of Macbeth at the Veterans Amphitheater in Fairfax. The dark and twisted tale of fate, betrayal, and self-destruction follows the noble Macbeth as he falls victim to his own ambitions and self-fulfilling prophecy.

The audience is seated in the grass of the outdoor venue so blankets and lawn chairs are encouraged and the energy is very open and friendly.

The set is designed by Stephen Shetler (who also designed the lighting and served as co-director with Julia Tasheva) and consists of two tall scaffolding structures to the right and left of the stage and large double doors to represent a castle entrance. Attached to each of the interior scaffolding sections are tables that fold down to make two long banquet tables that stretch the length of the stage.

Banquo (Kevin Dykstra) and Macbeth (Jef Chi) meet the Weird Sisters (Syd Schepisi, Isabell Tasheva-Shetler, Maggie Shircliff, Hannah Ruth Wellons, Amy Steinhardt, Ally Steinhardt) in ‘Macbeth.’ Photo by Heather Regan.

Music Designer Julia Tasheva, with Sound Engineer Cooper Rummel, has created an impressive soundtrack. There’s a whispering of voices and dark overcast feel of the music that magnifies the essential ethereally eerie vibe of the show.

Jef Chi plays the tragic Macbeth, whose own self-doubt and conscience prove to be his worst enemy. And Banquo is played by Kevin Dykstra, the honorable friend Macbeth turns on and has killed over his imagined threats to take his power. Dykstra does well showing his growing suspicion of Macbeth and the careful means he must take to hide his fears.

‘Out out damn spot.’ Lady Macbeth (Jaclyn Robertson) in ‘Macbeth.’ Photo by Heathe Regan.

Jaclyn Robertson plays Lady Macbeth with great strength and forceful ambition. Robertson’s energy conveys the repeated message of masculinity and its relation to violence and lust for power, with her “unsex me here” speech and questioning Macbeth’s manhood when he is hesitant to murder King Duncan (Ward Kay). With such a focus on masculinity and male pride, Lady Macbeth is an ironic character whose insistence on Macbeth’s brutality turns into guilt, madness, and taking her own life.

Tokunbo Adedeinde is Duncan’s son and heir, Malcolm, and Amro Ibrahim is his brother Donalbain. They smartly flee in fear for their safety after their father’s murder, but their swift departure instead casts blame for the murder onto them.

And the heroic Macduff is played by Chris D’Angelo. Macduff is the epitome of bravery and devotion in this story. D’Angelo displays a good balance of despair, upon hearing of the murder of his family, and loyalty in fighting for Malcolm to rightfully take his title as King.

A highlight of the production is the three witches. Playing the trio are Syd Schepisi, Amy Steinhardt, and Isabell Tasheva-Shetler, and along with them are their Demon Witch counterparts (Hannah Ruth Wellons, Maggie Shircliff, and Ally Steinhardt). The makeup (designed by Bridget Tunstall, Mary-Francis Dini, and Olivia Hinebaugh) and costumes (designed by Judith Harmon and Julia Tasheva) for this group are well-thought-out, and the additional Demon Witches, with their all-black garb and glowing red eyes, capture the dark and magical essence of the scene.

Directors Shelter and Tasheva effectively use flowing and interweaving movement with the group to play up the ritualistic mood of the witches’ chants, and Shelter as the lighting designer adds the perfect touch with red highlights and a fog machine.

Macduff (Chris D’Angelo) seeks revenge on Macbeth (Jef Chi) in ‘Macbeth.’ Photo by Heather Regan.

There is also no shortage of fight scenes in this play. Fight Choreographer Justin Winters has created dynamic choreography with stylized movements to symbolize the epic battle that ends with Macbeth losing his head.

Most of the actors play multiple parts, and kudos are due to them and the aforementioned makeup and costume designers for their part in making those transitions credible, as well as appropriate for the period.

And I must note that though Shakespearean language is a mouthful, to say the least, the cast consistently does a good job of articulation and displaying an understanding of the text that can often be lost or rushed through.

No production of Shakespeare is an easy task to take on, and it is the creative design and technical aspects of CFTC’s production that really make the show. The soundtrack is downright haunting. The lighting and scenery are spot-on with their spookiness. And the makeup and costumes work well for the show.

The City of Fairfax Theatre Company has a picturesque production of a grotesque story of murder and deception. With a great team of creative collaborators, CFTC offers the rare experience of Shakespeare in the (city) park, with their presentation of Macbeth.

Running Time: Two hours, with no intermission.

Macbeth runs through September 17, 2022, presented by the City of Fairfax Theatre Company performing at the Veterans Amphitheater, 10455 Armstrong Street (adjacent to City Hall), Fairfax, VA. Tickets ($25 adults, $15 children) are available online.

The Macbeth playbill is online here.

COVID Safety: Masks are not required but recommended. CFTC’s complete COVID-19 policy is here.

Cast: Witch 1- Syd Schepisi, Witch 2- Amy Steinhardt, Witch 3- Isabell Tasheva-Shetler, Demon Witch/Porter/Lord X- Hannah Ruth Wellons, Demon Witch/Servant/Gentlewoman/Soldier- Maggie Shircliff, Demon Witch/Servant/Soldier- Ally Steinhardt, Duncan/Doctor/Lord Y/Vision King/Soldier- Ward Kay, Malcolm/Vision King- Tokunbo Adedeinde, Sergeant/Seyton/Murderer/u/s Banquo- Paul Pesnell, Donalbain/Murderer/Soldier/u/s Malcolm- Amro Ibrahim, Lennox/Siward- Nathan Marshak, Ross- Jack Lockrem, Macbeth- Jef Chi, Banquo/u/s Macduff- Kevin Dykstra, Lady Macduff/Vision Queen/Angus- Olivia Hinebaugh, Lady Macbeth- Jaclyn Robertson, Messenger/Vision King/Soldier/Servant/u/s Fleance- Ab DeGennaro, Macduff/u/s Macbeth- Chris D’Angelo, Fleance/Lord III/Vision King/Soldier/u/s Donalbain- Michael Morris, Little Chicken Macduff- Kit Hinebaugh, Young Macduff/Soldier/Servant- Jagger Grove

Creative Team: Producer: Adam Ressa, Directors: Stephen Shetler and Julia Tasheva, Assistant Producers: Michael O’Dell and Amanda Herman Snellings, Scenic and Lighting Design: Stephen Shetler, Costume and Armor Design: Judith Harmon and Julia Tasheva, Stage Manager: Darby Bates, Assistant Stage Manager: Natalie Nardone, Music Design: Julia Tasheva, Sound Engineer: Cooper Rummel, Light Board Operator and Crewhead: Hana Horgan, Technical Intern: Ford Rowe, Props: Amanda Herman Snellings, Adam Ressa, Ford Rowe, Hair and Makeup Design: Bridget Tunstall, Mary-Francis Dini, Olivia Hinebaugh, Fight Choreographer: Justin Winters, Backstage Crew: Alyssa Seiden, Katie Carter, Set up Crew: Rodney Grove, Kai Yoffe, Graphic Design: Rebecca Kalant, Publicity, Social Media, Photography: Heather Regan, Playbill: Liz D’Souza, Set, Props, Costume Building & Painting Crew: Christine Sivlia-DeGenarro, Jackson DeGenarro, Ford Rowe, Kai Yoffe, Rodney and JuliaGrove, Ab DeGenarro, Lucas Champion, Olivia Hinebaugh, Rebecca Kalant, AmandaHerman Snellings, Brandon Moon, Janice Gambaccini, Sharon Petersen, Michael O’Dell