He's bad, he's bloody, and this time, he's Paul. Shakespeare Santa Cruz's 20th anniversary season production of Macbeth will feature artistic director Paul Whitworth in the title role. It will be Whitworth's farewell performance before he begins a two-year sabbatical from his duties as director of SSC.
Macbeth is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy, and his nastiest--full of witches and murders, disembowling, dimemberment, frame-ups, animal cannibalism, infanticide, regicide, suicide, ghastly recipes, and the kind of entertaining that would have Martha Stewart clawing at the window grating of a psychiatric ward.
Whitworth's considerable charisma promises to lend a commanding presence to this season's Macbeth. Steven Winn, theater critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, cited Whitworth's work as having "an authority unmatched by any actor doing Shakespeare in the region." Whitworth's keen instinct for drama is sure to be aroused as this performance brings down the curtain on his current tenure as artistic director of SSC.
Add to that the masterful hand of SSC's most experienced director, Michael Edwards, and you have the makings of one of the finest productions ever. Edwards has directed 15 different SSC productions in the festival's 20 years. And, of course, the play is so monstrously entertaining all by itself. There's just something so compelling about watching somebody go down in flames. From Icarus to Elvis, it's the timeless story that drops your jaw in helpless horror every time you see it, and nobody has ever done it with more panache than the malevolent Thane of Cawdor.
But Macbeth is only a third of the fun being offered by SSC this season. At the opposite end of the spectrum from the hellish evil of Macbeth is the enchanted fairyland wood of A Midsummer Nights Dream. A light romantic comedy with a convoluted plot, A Midsummer Night's Dream revolves around two couples whose romances are complicated by their woodland wanderings. The wood is presided over by Oberon and Titania, king and queen of the fairies, and the impish sprite, Puck. While the couples pursue each other through the forest and the complications of meddling fairies, Bottom, and his company of poor players, stumble into the proceedings when they decide to use the enchanted wood to rehearse their own homespun play loosely based on the myth of Pyramus and Thisbe.
A Midsummmer Night's Dream contains beautiful expressions on the themes of love, dreams, and the creative imagination. Tim Ocel takes the director's reins for his fourth season with SSC. He has previously received both critical and popular acclaim for his direction of The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1999), As You Like It (1997), and The Twelfth Night (1996).
Somewhere between the dark world of Macbeth and the enchanted A Midsummer Night's Dream is the more commonplace realm of Oliver Goldsmith's, She Stoops to Conquer--a comedy of mistakes and misconceptions. The plot follows the misadventures of Richard Marlowe, a young man painfully shy, awkward, and tongue-tied in the presence of his prospective fiancÃŠe, Kate Hardcastle. But when Marlowe mistakes the Hardcastle's country home for an inn, Kate decides to disguise herself as a barmaid to attempt to develop a more intimate relationship.
Goldsmith defied the conventions of the time by crafting a simple comedy of manners that plays like an 18th-century episode of Fawlty Towers. Beth Milles directs. A newcomer to SSC, she has a wide range of theatrical experience, both classical and contemporary, including lecturing at Harvard University and directing on Broadway.
With the threat of blackouts, stratospheric gas prices, and a staggering economy, it just might turn into a long, hot summer in California. Never fear, the festival glen beckons like a cool oasis in the desert of summer entertainment offerings.
The festival season runs from July 11, through September 2, performances Tuesday thru Sunday. Tickets are available from the Ticket Office at (831) 459-2159. For more information, visit the web site: or call the Ticket Office.