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MACBETH: Through the Eyes of Teen Critics

Every season a group of high school students participate in STC’s Teen Critic program. These students attend the productions, participate in workshops and craft critical reviews reflecting their unique perspectives on the performances.

Click here to find out more about the Teen Critic program and information on applying to the 2017-2018 season.

Malaika Bhayana, 10th grade, Bethesda Chevy Chase High School, MD

Stunning is the word that comes to mind when I saw Macbeth at STC. Each scene was not only captivating visually but captivating in every other sense of the word. Liesl Tommy manages to take a play that is as old as they come and transform it into something entirely new. Set in modern day north Africa, the first thing that I noticed was the costumes. Ranging from military camouflage to jaw dropping formal wear, the costumes brought a raw element to the production, with the underlying reminder that this is what our modern day world looks like. The sets and the lighting were breathtaking: the way the light shifted whenever Macbeth spoke directly to the audience had my heart beating fast every time.

Jesse J. Perez and the cast of Macbeth. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Camilla Johnson, 9th grade, Georgetown Visitation School, DC

Unlike the expressive costumes and props, the set is sparse and versatile— there is one set throughout the entire play— sometimes portraying a desert or a bunker, but overall giving the feeling that it would be advertised on Zillow as a trendy converted loft office space that used to be an industrial warehouse. Neon poles descended from the ceiling to define walls and boundaries, but unlike the rest of play, most of the set was left to the imagination.

Zach Garrigus, 10th grade, Atholton High School, MD

The lighting and sets, by Colin K. Bills and John Coyne respectively, are both well-crafted. The stage is largely lit through the use of neon rods that can be raised and lowered to establish different locations and areas within the world of the play. The staging of many scenes is also notable for its almost cinematic qualities. Many moments in the show are so visually inspired that they look almost like framed shots from a film. In one scene, while Macbeth prepares his army for battle, Macduff and Malcolm approach the castle. While Macbeth and his men are still speaking onstage, the lights on the stage dim and the back wall of the set slides upward to reveal Macduff’s forces, bathed in neon green light. Slowly the soldiers begin to creep onstage, their guns at the ready and their flashlights standing out like pinpricks in the darkness. At moments like this, Macbeth shines. The staging, lighting and music all combine to form memorable moments that clearly demonstrate the visual eye of director Liesl Tommy.

Callie Cooper, 12th grade, James Madison High School, VA

The creative vision that Liesl Tommy had that added to the meaning of the overall work was the cross-gender casting. King Duncan became Queen Duncan, Donalbain became a woman as well. Having Duncan as a Queen made her accolades to Macbeth and her other citizens more endearing and motherly. It made her brutal murder more shocking. The fact that she is a woman in a masculine role made it ironic that this strong woman was killed in her sleep when she was most vulnerable.

Mia Randers-Pehrson, 9th grade, Homeschool


Marcus Naylor, Corey Allen and Sophia Ramos in Macbeth. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Lady Macbeth, played by Nikkole Salter, is bold and defiant in her role as controlling wife. She masterfully portrays Macbeth’s puppet master as well as her descent into madness. One of the most touching scenes in the production is the moment Macduff, played by Marcus Naylor, hears about the death of his entire family. The porter, played by Myra Lucretia Taylor, deserves a special mention for the hilarity in her short time on stage.

Keira DiGaetano, 10th grade, Richard Montgomery High School, MD

The witches, especially Naomi Jacobson’s sly businesswoman-plus-witch, are calculating and uninhibited characters that excel at embodying omniscience. Banquo and the Thane of Ross, portrayed by McKinley Belcher III and Sophia Ramos respectively, steal the scene and are consistently highlights of the show without being over the top about it.

Talia Zitner, 10th grade, Woodrow Wilson High School

Possibly the most engaging part of the show was the mysterious dynamic between Lady Macbeth (Nikkole Salter) and Macbeth (Jesse J. Perez) himself. Their love for each other was expressed in a deep, dark and hungry way. Lady Macbeth’s constant craving for power was portrayed as so consuming that “ambitious” is hardly the right word to describe it. It was refreshing to see a woman in such a position of power over her husband, despite the murderous circumstances. The violence of the deed seemed almost comfortable for the couple, adding a chilling layer of depth to them.


The cast of Macbeth. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Another notable and unique part of the show was the almost entirely person of color cast. I personally enjoyed seeing a variety of talents from all races represented on the stage. Within the world of the play, it also created an interesting contrast between the “villains” and the “good guys” of the story. For example, all of the witches, who can perhaps be blamed for Macbeth’s ambition, were all white, whereas Queen Duncan and Macduff were both played by people of color.

Renée Deminne, 10th grade, St. Charles High School

While it was in some respects a far cry from the original Macbeth, and in some respects surprisingly close, Liesl Tommy creates a production rich in both entertainment and political voices. Maybe this production is not for those looking for a pure rendition of Macbeth’s original themes, but for every layer Tommy subtracts, there are always some added. This unique Macbeth has the feel of a contemporary play and a fresh setting.

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