Theater Review: ‘Macbeth’ at the Port Tobacco Players
The power a director is able to wield when crafting a production is fascinating. Without changing any dialogue, they are able to alter the fundamental nature of a character or the crux of a narrative with a single creative choice. I’ve seen this done both exceptionally (the most recent Broadway revival of “Oklahoma!”) and poorly (the most recent Broadway revival of “West Side Story”) in professional theater. The opportunity to witness this feat of staging in a community theater is infinitely more satisfying, given the natural constraints of the environment. A fine example is the current Port Tobacco Players (PTP) production of William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy of ‘Macbeth’.
This production was a feast for the senses… for those wishing to see the true art in the Southern Maryland theater community…
For those unfamiliar with the plot, Lord Macbeth receives an ominous prophecy from three witches that he will one day ascend the throne of Scotland, thus displacing the current King Duncan. Lady Macbeth sees an opportunity for her and her husband to achieve power through their own machinations. From there, the story spirals into increasing madness as the two win and try to hold on to their newfound power. It’s ultimately a timeless tale that begs the question, is power worth clinging on to if you have to give up your very soul? While Shakespeare is believed to have originally written the play in 1606, the heart of the story remains relevant today.
The technical elements of PTP, while still beautiful, have thrived since the pandemic began. This is the third in-person production I’ve reviewed and I was floored by every single one. This set was no exception. Designed by Chris Magee, the basic setting oscillates between a spooky, understated landscape of skeleton-like trees, backlit by shaded blue and black light, and a stately wooden castle, created with a stained-glass wall mural at breathtaking in its center. It seems to be carefully crafted and each piece chosen with care. My favorite was the wooden table and chairs from the second act. Their clever use to punctuate visceral moments in the story helped me sink deeper into the weight of the narrative.
Jason Klonkowski’s sound design and Tommy Scott’s lighting design were impeccable. Klonkowski chose thematically appropriate sounds/instrumentals (with music from The Rogues) to distract from dark scene changes (chirping insects were a favorite). His judicious use of a vocal synthesizer during a pivotal moment also raised the bar for the emotional depth of the scene. Scott’s clever mix of different colored lights enhanced and complemented the masterfully crafted set. This technical theater nerd found herself appreciating artistry.
Three particularly notable actors were Kaitelyn Bauer Dieguez in Lady Macbeth, John Swann in Ross/Porter/Various, and Paul Norris in Macbeth. Dieguez shapes an ambitious and ruthless woman, striving for power in any way possible. Her character’s arc of a loving, devoted wife to a ruined woman haunted by her own iniquities was genuine. The full spectrum of performance seemed universal to the female experience. In a predominantly male-dominated play, 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 doorman was hilarious. His flawless physique brought Shakespeare’s bawdy jokes to life in a way that felt intuitively modern and easy to understand. Finally, Norris was an impressive surprise with his take on the ever-complex Macbeth. At first he felt likeable and endearing, but in the end I supported his demise because of how Norris embodied the character’s madness. He became the very essence of the character. Norris’ acting choices were varied and rarely predictable – the true hallmark of an actor who has honed his craft.
Craig Hower’s direction provided a welcome and fresh take on the source material. He chose to lean into the dominant concept of the three witches who deliver the crucial prophecy as puppeteers of the action that ensues. At least one of them can be seen watching almost every event, while grinning with an amused smile. Hower chooses to accentuate the chemistry and tender relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth at the start by having them exchange many romantic and endearing interactions. It gave their connection a raw emotional intimacy that only serves to pull the rug out from under the audience at the end of this tragic story. It also included a locally trained mastiff (skillfully trained and handled by Andi Evans) as Lady Macbeth’s canine companion, which added a palpable gravity to her character. At any moment, you felt she was going to unleash the dog on her enemies if they pushed her overboard. It was a stroke of genius.
This production was a feast for the senses. From its magnificent technical elements to its talented cast and outstanding direction, this is a show not to be missed. For those wishing to see the true art of Southern Maryland’s theater community, this is the perfect show.
Approximate duration: 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 10 minute intermission .
Rating: Ages 13+ for heavy themes of murder, violence, and minor sexual innuendo.
“Macbeth” runs from January 28 through February 13, 2022 at Port Tobacco Players, 508 Charles Street La Plata, Maryland 20646 from For more information and to order tickets, please visit their website here.
PTP currently requires masks for all customers, as well as proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test for customers 13 and older.