Enter Lady Macbeth

Evan Lewis Johnson and Brooke Wagstaff as two out of three Lady Macbeths.

Evan Lewis Johnson and Brooke Wagstaff as two out of three Lady Macbeths.

You don’t need all 10 fingers to count the scenes Shakespeare wrote for Lady Macbeth. She has fewer lines than many of Shakespeare’s famous women, but what lines! “Unsex me here; and fill me from the crown to the toe, top full of direst cruelty!” And “Give me the daggers; the sleeping and the dead are but as pictures.” And “Out, damned spot!”Hester Chillingworth, the UC Davis grad student billed as “director and text mixer” of Enter Lady Macbeth, has extracted stuff from Shakespeare’s Macbeth—characters, recognizable phrases and old words in new combinations—and come up with her own new 45-minute piece. It’s part séance and part ritual.

There are many mysteries and intriguing blanks about Lady M, which gives Chillingworth room to maneuver. Shakespeare never tells us her actual name or anything about her past. And how does she die? Her death, offstage, is announced with no details. She probably does die (lots of people do in that play), but so many characters spend so much of their time onstage spinning lies that Chillingworth has to wonder.

Chillingworth has a cast of three, all simultaneously playing Lady Macbeth: two females, Elif Sonmez and Brooke Wagstaff; and one male, Evan Lewis Johnson (outstanding last year in City Theatre’s Equus). “Because no women were permitted to act on Shakespeare’s stage, the role was actually written for a man,” Chillingworth said. This sort of thing’s occasionally been done before. In 1998, Beyond the Proscenium Productions staged Hamlet ESP with three doubtful, debating Hamlets (two male and one female).

After the UC Davis run, Chillingworth plans to take Enter Lady Macbeth to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August.