McLean High School
The sky is a dusky purple as the black-cloaked witches gather round their cauldron. Speaking as one, they chant: “Double, double, toil and trouble!” All at once, white light tears through the sky, lightning flashing to the ominous rhythm of their incantation. The essence of a wickedly magical thunderstorm is captured within Gainesville High School’s theater.
Macbeth is among the most famous of William Shakespeare’s plays, thought to have been first written and performed around 1606. Shakespeare drew inspiration from Scottish history when crafting the tragic tale of one couple’s bloody pursuit of the throne and their subsequent descent into despair.
Gainesville’s cast astounded with their performance. Kel Nejedly’s range as an actor was on full display in the titular role of Macbeth, creating a devastating portrayal of the character’s unraveling psyche as he developed from an uncertain lapdog to a cruel, yet desperate tyrant. A lesser actor would have played Macbeth with a vague “insanity,” but Nejedly demonstrated a much deeper understanding, clearly conveying Macbeth’s specific mindset as he was devoured by the guilt of his actions and caged by their consequences. Callie Nicewonger was equally compelling as the calculating Lady Macbeth, who commanded her husband with physical touch and the audience with her presence. Nicewonger’s performance was layered with a striking combination of chilling confidence, gentle comfort, and finally a frenzied urgency of motion as Lady Macbeth came undone.
The rest of the cast bolstered the leads with a full commitment to emotional intensity. Malcolm (Ollie Maxted) had a particularly effective breakdown. Maxted chose to play the character as largely stoic before his father’s death, creating a shocking contrast when Malcolm collapsed to the floor, sobbing. Christopher Glicoes' Macduff was perhaps the most consistently funereal character, with a heartfelt grief for his murdered family that lasted throughout the show. Macduff’s exhausted body language even as he lifted Macbeth’s severed head in triumph conveyed the ultimately hollow nature of his victory in the face of so much bloodshed – without speaking a word to express this. Gently offsetting this overwhelming tragedy was Porter (Iris Reed), who earned riotous laughter when drunkenly swaying across the stage. Furthermore, the ensemble of witches (Cassie Chisolm, Liliana Anderson, Amberly Reyes, Mya Brinson, Fatima Kamara and Amelie Yera) was delightfully creepy with their rather disturbingly synchronized movements, grabbing the audience’s attention whenever they were onstage.
Michael Babecki, LR Newton, and Lex MacVicar made good use of lighting throughout the show, notably using reds and blues to convey the distortion of reality when Banquo’s ghost (Isabella Lacson) appeared. Additionally, each costume (created by Sydney Jones, Caelyn Driscoll, and the GHS Costumes Crew) was quite detailed, even those of background characters. The GHS Technical Theatre Team’s set design was the true standout, however: the floor’s chessboard pattern enabled the compelling staging of the show’s climax, while the balcony above the stage allowed Hecate (Maira Amin) to loom ominously over much of the story, quietly signifying the forces of fate that ultimately doom each character.
Gainesville High School’s Macbeth was an impressive performance, and audiences surely found it as difficult to wipe from their minds as Lady Macbeth found blood to be from her hands.
St. Andrew’s Episcopal School
Gainesville High School presents a striking execution of the legendary Macbeth by William Shakespeare with the core tenants of temptation, intrigue, and murder. William Shakespeare’s Macbeth was written around 1606 and was first performed at the outdoor Globe Theatre in 1611. It’s loosely based on the reign of the Scottish King Macbeth, from 1040-1057. The play has since become a staple of literature in the anglosphere. The play follows Macbeth who murders his way to the Scottish throne after hearing a prophecy from the Weird Sisters telling him that he will be king.
The titular character Macbeth is played by Kel Nejedly. Nejedly first portrays Macbeth as very composed, demonstrating an acting range with a truly frightening (and convincing) descent into madness. Nejedly excelled at including small details that enhanced the emotions of Macbeth, shouting and becoming more and more mercurial as time went on, highlighting how Macbeth was losing his grip on reality due to the guilt for what he had done.
Lady Macbeth, Macbeth’s beloved wife, was brought to life with Callie Nicewonger’s acting. Nicewonger was able to capture Lady Macbeth’s manipulative nature with physical movements like literally dragging Macbeth to where she wanted him to go and caressing his cheek when convincing him to murder the king. Nicewonger’s performance was at its peak at the end of Lady Macbeth’s life. During Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene, Nicewonger encapsulated the manic guilt of Lady Macbeth by portraying her as an animalistic beast consumed by remorse for her actions. This poignant spiral, from cunning to insane, was a beautifully tragic way to end Lady Macbeth’s arc.
Cassie Chisolm, Liliana Anderson, Amberly Reyes, Mya Brinson, Amelie Yera and Fatima Kamara played the Weird Sisters, a coven of witches who prophesized Macbeth’s ascent to power. These six had an outstanding capacity to unnerve the audience whenever they were on stage and brought freakiness front and center with their flowy and unnatural movements and erratic behavior.
Hecate played by Maira Amin loomed over the entire play with a subtle yet powerful presence. When Hecate did take center stage, Amin ensured that Hecate had the commanding aura required of the leader of the witches.
El Macerelli, Piper Salhberg, and Alyvia Hakeem were the masterminds behind the exquisite sound design. The abundant music added to the tone without taking away from the action on stage. In the play, the music became more hopeful after Malcom and MacDuff plot to kill Macbeth, demonstrating this crew’s attention to detail.
The GHS Technical Theatre Team constructed a magnificent set with a chess motif. The set was gorgeous, complete with emblems with chess pieces on them and a coat of arms with a knight’s helm. Although detailed, the team ensured that the details were not overwhelming and enhanced the stage action rather than hindered it.
This production of Macbeth was an intense drama complete with intrigue that shook the audience to its core with a spectacular emphasis on emotion and madness. Gainesville High School touched the audience with their haunting performances supported by impeccable technical production value.