"It's one of those challenges that any actor can measure themselves by. It's a great play and if you can do it well, then you've done something," actor Philip Lehl says, explaining why Stark Naked Theatre picked Macbeth for its final play this season.
Theater co-founders Lehl and wife Kim Tobin will play Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (their first time acting together in a while) and David Matranga who's been all over Houston's stages this season (even opera) will take on the role of the avenging Macduff.
Thanks to a prophecy from a trio of witches and with the urging of his ambitious wife, the vacillating Macbeth finally decides to kill King Duncan, taking Scotland's throne for himself. Worse, he does it in his own home, breaking all sorts of hospitality rules.
Things go further downhill as Macbeth props up his regime with tyranny and more death. But actions have ramifications and both he and his wife are assailed by guilt and paranoia (cue the Lady's famous sleepwalking scene.)
"The subject matter is extremely timely right now. The subject of greed and selfishness; the ability to see past greed and ambition," Tobin says. Or as Matranga puts it: "Why it is that people make the choices and decisions that they make? Where does ambition and greed and power become the over arching need?"
Matranga also says he's fascinated by the ripples effects of the Macbeths actions.
"You've got these two characters and everybody else is so affected and thrown about by the choices these two people make. And then it's about whether you're trying to recover in a positive way from those choices or you see their choices as positive and jump on that bandwagon. "
Tobin says this is a role she's wanted to do for 10 or 15 years, especially after seeing different productions that she didn't feel hit the mark.
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"I had seen production after production that I thought just didn't feel like it got for me the conflict that people go through, who struggle with the choice about that final choice to cross a line between truly an evil choice and what's a bad choice - the consequences of doing something that you can't live with in your conscience. I think most of the Lady Macbeths I've ever saw on stage were so one dimensional that it bothered me. "
Tobin sees Lady Macbeth in a different way. "She's an idealist who had these dream of being this beautiful, wonderful, magnanimous queen and with the tip of a hat of one prophecy about how that can happen. She's willing to do something really bad to reach an idyllic place."
And then there's the whole fate and superstition angle. Macbeth was already respected as a general and commander, Matranga says, when he encounters the witches. "I wonder for Macbeth what his trajectory would have been had he not run into the witches and had they not said 'Hey this is what you're going to be.'"
Previews June 6, opens June 7 and runs through June 22 at Studio 101, Spring Street Studios, 1824 Spring Street. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays and a special "Pay What You Can" performance scheduled on 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 17. An exhibit of artwork entitled "Haunted" can be viewed before the show. For information visit starknakedtheatre.com or call 832-866-6514. $10-$20.