Reviews: Macbeth and Beehive at Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival

True: If you’re in stage seating, you’re not allowed to go to the bathroom during the show.

True: If you’re in stage seating, you’re not allowed to go to the bathroom during the show.

Photo courtesy of Joy Strotz

Macbeth and Beehive alternate Tuesdays-Sundays at 7:30 p.m. Sand Harbor in Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park. Through August 26; $99-$30; 1-800-74-SHOWS;
Rated 4.0

Talk about two shows that couldn’t be more different, staged side-by-side in repertory. The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival (with a large cast of professional actors from around the country) offers Shakespeare’s violent Scottish tragedy Macbeth, a dark portrait of an ambitious medieval tyrant run amok. Alongside is Beehive, a cheerful, uptempo paean to the pop songs sung by girl groups of the early ’60s. How do they fare?

Director Charles Fee—who often moves Shakespeare scripts into 20th century settings—sticks with tradition in this white-knuckle Macbeth, replete with battle scenes involving broadswords, battle-axes and abundant bloodletting. The virtually all-male cast is steeped in martial customs and an atmosphere of ancient treachery and paranoia throughout, as Macbeth murders his way to the Scottish throne.

Lynn Robert Berg is strong in the title role. He’s deadly with a blade (sometimes slaughtering opponents within seconds) yet plagued by delusion and self-doubt, which increasingly spurs him to take out anyone who might threaten his grip on power.

Playing Lady Macbeth is Erin Partin, who matches her man’s consuming ambition mano a mano. When Partin delivers the famous speech, “Unsex me here, and fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full of direst cruelty,” she’s scary to behold.

This production also features a fine presentation of the three witches. They’re cloaked in billowing black, and when they spread their arms (holding rods to dramatically extend their reach) they resemble enormous bats, or birds of prey, or maybe vultures, with a huge wingspan—a striking visual. And there’s no hokey distortion of the witches’ voices, so their spooky incantations (“Double, double, toil and trouble”) glitter with implied menace. And they’re onstage, watchful, for much of the show.

Fee streamlines the script, focusing on Macbeth’s rapid transformation into a dangerous despot while deftly handling the tricky question of precisely when his mind gives way to madness.

It’s staged outdoors, as twilight fades to darkness, enhancing the textures in this Shakespeare classic—still gripping, after 400 years.

Beehive is an unapologetic jukebox musical featuring pop standards made famous by 1960s girl groups, a la “Where Did Our Love Go.”

There’s chirpy girl-talk between numbers, and chatter about coming-of-age in fast-changing times, but there’s no plot—this perky revue is more of a retro lounge act than a play. Fine with devoted fans of the ’60s tunes, but those expecting a story with a beginning, middle and end may feel disappointed.

After intermission, the focus shifts from harmonic vocal combos to women with distinctive voices who became solo stars in the late ’60s, like Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin. These broad impersonations aren’t as successful as the lighthearted combo anthems in the first half.

Adrianna Cleveland, Annaliese Griswold, Shelby Griswold, Christiana Perrault, Camille Robinson and Hanna-Jo Weisberg shimmy throughout, sporting huge, high-rise hairstyles and cycling through multiple 1960s costumes, backed by a slick six-man band backstage.