The power that a director is able to wield while crafting a production is fascinating. Without changing any dialogue, they are able to alter the core nature of a character or crux of a narrative with a single creative choice. I have seen this done both exceptionally (Broadway’s most recent revival of “Oklahoma!”) and poorly (Broadway’s most recent revival of “West Side Story”) in professional theatre. The opportunity to witness this directorial feat in community theatre is infinitely more satisfying, given the natural constraints of the environment. A fine example is Port Tobacco Players’ (PTP) current production of William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy of “Macbeth.”
This production was a feast for the senses…for those who wish to see true artistry in the Southern Maryland theatre community…
For those unfamiliar with the plot, Lord Macbeth receives an ominous prophecy from three witches that he will one day ascend the Scottish throne, thereby displacing the current King Duncan. Lady Macbeth sees an opportunity for her and her husband to attain power through their own machinations. From there, the story propels itself into increasing madness as the two of them gain, and attempt to keep, their newfound power. It’s ultimately a timeless tale that begs the question, is power worth holding onto if you must forfeit your very soul? While Shakespeare is thought to have originally penned the play in 1606, the core of the story remains relevant today.
PTP’s technical elements, while always beautiful, have flourished since the pandemic began. This marks the third in-person production I have reviewed and I been floored by each one. This set was no exception. Designed by Chris Magee, the basic framework vacillates between a spooky, understated landscape of skeleton-like trees, backlit by an ombre blue and black light, and a regal wooden castle, created with a breathtaking stained glass mural at its center. It appears to be carefully crafted and each set piece thoughtfully chosen. My favorite was the wooden table and chairs in the second act. Their clever usage to punctuate the visceral moments of the story helped pull me further into the weight of the narrative.
Sound design by Jason Klonkowski and lighting design by Tommy Scott were impeccable. Klonkowski chose thematically appropriate sounds/instrumentals (featuring music by The Rogues) to distract from dark scene changes (the insect chirping was a favorite). His judicious use of a voice synthesizer during a pivotal moment also upped the ante of the emotional depth of the scene. Scott’s clever mixing of different colored lights enhanced and complemented the masterfully crafted set. This technical theatre nerd found herself appreciating the artistry.
Three actors of particular note were Kaitelyn Bauer Dieguez as Lady Macbeth, John Swann as Ross/Porter/Various, and Paul Morris as Macbeth. Dieguez crafts an ambitious, and ruthless wife, vying for power in any way that she can get it. Her character’s arc from loving and devoted wife to a crumbling woman, haunted by her own iniquities was authentic. The full spectrum of the performance felt universal to the feminine experience. In a play mostly dominated by men, Dieguez imbues Lady Macbeth with a quiet, yet empowering ferocity.
Swann brings each of his characters to life in a truly believable way. His portrayal of the porter was hilarious. His flawless physicality brought Shakespeare’s bawdy jokes to life in a way that felt intuitively modern and easy to understand. Finally, Morris was an impressive surprise with his portrayal of the ever-complex Macbeth. In the beginning, he felt likable and endearing but by the end, I was rooting for his demise because of how Norris embodied the character’s madness. He became the very essence of the character. Morris’ acting choices were varied, and rarely predictable—the true hallmark of an actor who has honed his craft.
Direction by Craig Hower brought a welcomed and fresh take on the source material. He chose to lean into the prevailing concept of the three witches who deliver the pivotal prophecy as the puppeteers of the ensuing action. At least one of them can be found spectating on almost all of the events, while smirking with an amused grin. Hower chooses to accentuate the chemistry and tender relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth at the beginning by having them exchange many romantic and endearing interactions. This gave their connection a raw, emotional intimacy which only further serves to pull the rug out from under the audience at the conclusion of this tragic story. He also included a locally trained mastiff (artfully trained and handled by Andi Evans) as Lady Macbeth’s canine companion which added a palpable gravitas to her character. At any moment, you felt she was going to let the dog loose on her enemies if they pushed her over the edge. It was a stroke of genius.
This production was a feast for the senses. From its gorgeous technical elements to its talented cast and exceptional direction, this is a show not to be missed. For those who wish to see true artistry in the Southern Maryland theatre community, this is the perfect show.
Approximate Run Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with one 10-minute intermission .
Advisory: 13+ for heavy themes of murder, violence, and minor sexual innuendo.
“Macbeth” runs January 28 – February 13, 2022 at the Port Tobacco Players, 508 Charles Street La Plata, Maryland 20646 from For more information and to order tickets, please visit their website here.
PTP is currently requiring masks for all patrons, as well as proof of either vaccination or a negative PCR test for patrons 13 and older.