Whoosh! Issue 73 - October/November 2002

RENÉE O'CONNOR IN MACBETH
By Sarah Mears
Content © 2002 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 2002 held by Whoosh!
3116 words


Author's Note:
Renée O'Connor appeared in the Shakespeare by the Sea production of William Shakespeare's Macbeth from June 27 to August 16, 2002.

Darling it's better, down where it's wetter, under da sea...!

Click the graphic to visit Shakespeare by the Sea



ACT I, Scene 5 (01-04)
ACT I, Scene 7 (05-08)
ACT II, Scene 2 (09-14)
ACT II, Scene 3 (15)
ACT III, Scene 1 (16)
ACT III, Scene 2 (17-18)
ACT III, Scene 4 (19-25)
ACT V, Scene 1 (26-31)
ACT V, Scene 5 (32)
Conclusion (33)
The Cast and Crew
Articles
Biography



Renée O'CONNOR IN MACBETH



ACT I, Scene 5



Okay, everyone! Show me your 'jazz hands'!!

The cast of Shakespeare By The Sea's 2002 production of Macbeth


[01] Renée O'Connor's first entrance is highly effective. The witches do most of the scene changes. The area under the highest platform is the main interior entrance and exit for Macbeth (Patrick Vest) and Lady Macbeth (Renée O'Connor). The play first starts out in exterior with that entrance covered by a canvas flap. For Lady Macbeth's first entrance, taking the scene indoors, the two female witches take hold of the canvas at the top, while chanting. Then, as they finish, they drop the canvas and take it away, revealing Lady Macbeth standing in the "door way" reading Macbeth's letter telling of his encounter with the witches and his new position as Thane of Cawdor. She is dressed in a lovely light blue gown with a band around her head that has a veil hanging from it in the back.

[02] A memorable part of O'Connor's performance is her understanding of what she's saying and her ability to express it so that the audience understands it as well. Everything O'Connor says and does as Lady Macbeth makes sense. Her every action and gesture has a purpose and a meaning. Her use of the words and her economy of actions and gestures help the audience know exactly what is going on with Lady Macbeth.

[03] After reading the letter, Lady Macbeth has a monologue about having to be the one to stir her husband into doing what he must do in order to gain his greatness, which is to become a king. Upon hearing that Duncan (Andy Kallok), the king, is coming, she invokes the spirits to give her the strength and cunning to do what must be done. At this point, Macbeth appears. They embrace and kiss in merriment of their great future. Then Lady Macbeth goes straight to the matter and instructs her husband to put on his mask of welcome and innocence, "But be the serpent under 't". And to "leave all the rest to me", thereby placing the plotting and planning in her hands and the action of it in his.

[04] This scene is well done. From the very first moments with the letter, to her monologue announcing her deadly plan, to the interaction between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, O'Connor commands the stage. Lady Macbeth's conviction, strength, cunning, ambitious mind, and obvious affection for her husband, all show loud and clear in O'Connor's performance. The interplay between O'Connor and Vest (Macbeth) is wonderful. They are young, beautiful, ambitious, lustful, playful, and conniving. Yet, it is very clear who wears the pants in this family. It is fascinating to watch how Lady Macbeth "handles" Macbeth. O'Connor goes beyond the words and uses strong physical interaction with Vest, which shows the complexity and depth of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth's relationship. It is very natural and very believable.

ACT I, Scene 7

[05] Lady Macbeth joins Macbeth who is faltering on his courage and wants to back out of the affair. Lady Macbeth chides him into keeping to what he has promised her he will do:

Wouldst thou have that
Which thou esteem'st the ornament of life,
And live a coward in thine own esteem,
Letting 'I dare not' wait upon 'I would,'
Like the poor cat i' the adage?

When you durst do it, then you were a man;
And, to be more than what you were, you would
Be so much more the man.

I have given suck, and know
How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me:
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums,
And dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn as you
Have done to this.

[06] She then lays out the plan: she will give Duncan's attendants wine and wassail to send them off to unconsciousness, affording Macbeth and her the opportunity to kill Duncan, and then place the blame on his attendants.

[07] At the beginning of the scene, Lady Macbeth comes in very agitated that her husband is not playing his part as host. Then when he announces, "We will proceed no further in this business", she quickly takes her hands out of his and backs away with a cold stare, before she lays into him.

[08] While reading Lady Macbeth's lines, I can see another actor, including myself, making her a ruthless b-tch. However, O'Connor gives Lady Macbeth strength and power in her subtle approach, so she never comes off as b-tchy. Her Lady Macbeth is a wonderfully three-dimensional human being. Even when she talks about bashing her child's brains out, you understand exactly where Lady Macbeth is coming from. Yes, she is cruel, but you can see that she is not heartless. She is ambitious, but not inhuman. O'Connor does not need to be b-tchy to show Lady Macbeth's power, intellect, and conviction.


ACT II, Scene 2

[09] This is the scene where Macbeth kills Duncan. At first, Lady Macbeth is alone and hearing noises; then Macbeth comes out of the chamber with bloody hands and a guilty heart. Lady Macbeth tries in vain to bring him back to his senses, first with tender caresses to his head and face:

These deeds must not be thought
After these ways; so, it will make us mad.
Then with annoyance:
You do unbend your noble strength, to think
So brainsickly of things
Nonetheless, Macbeth has lost his grip, completely.



UNCLE!!!!!

Macbeth (Patrick Vest) in one of many swordfights


[10] O'Connor gets physical again with Vest, but this time with much more force, as she pushes and pulls him about to get him to pull himself together and go wash his hands. There is a great moment where Macbeth is on his knees in grief and he reaches towards O'Connor for comfort, but she backs away from him in disgust. She uses a great facial expression, demonstrating that it is the subtlety and honesty of her reaction that makes it the more powerful and believable.

[11] Lady Macbeth then notices that Macbeth has brought the daggers with him. She pushes him towards them, telling him to put them back with the unconscious attendants. But Macbeth refuses to go back into the chamber. Therefore, Lady Macbeth picks them up herself and goes in to finish setting up the murder scene.

[12] When she returns she now has bloody hands. Hearing knocking at the front gate, she takes Macbeth's hands and instructs that they go wash and get into their nightgowns,

lest occasion call us,
And show us to be watchers. Be not lost
So poorly in your thoughts.

[13] They ascend the stairs, but Macbeth turns in reply to more knocking and shouts, "Wake Duncan with thy knocking!" However, Lady Macbeth comes back and shuts him up by putting her bloody hand over his mouth. As she goes off again he finishes in a softer voice, "I would thou couldst!"

[14] Her grabbing his mouth is very affective and even gets a little chuckle from the audience. Saturday night I noticed that when she grabbed his bloody hands in hers, earlier in the scene, she rubbed his hands as well, mixing the blood. It was rather creepy.


ACT II, Scene 3

[15] Lady Macbeth comes out to hear the news of Duncan's death. She stands up on the second highest platform in an off-white nightgown. She does not have much to say. Lady Macbeth feigns shock and grief, yet all the while she eyes keenly everything that is said and done by all, most especially Macbeth. She watches him like a hawk, fearful that he will slip up somehow. He does not. In fact, when he admits to killing the attendants, in his grief-stricken rage upon seeing Duncan dead, O'Connor gives a wonderfully subtle expression of surprise.


ACT III, Scene 1

[16] Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, as king and queen, greet Banquo (Darin Dahms). Lady Macbeth has but one line, but there is some interesting business going on between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, as they get accustomed to their new roles. There are several moments of eyeing each other to go here or there, per ceremony and custom. Finally, he has to motion with his head for her to leave. My initial interpretation of all this is that Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are showing signs of being uncomfortable in their new positions, both from inexperience and more so from guilt. Also, Lady Macbeth is unhappy playing the second fiddle to Macbeth in public, seeing as how she is the one who ultimately made it all happen.


ACT III, Scene 2

[17] Macbeth is losing his wits and Lady Macbeth does her best to hold fast. Lady Macbeth says

How now, my lord! why do you keep alone,
Of sorriest fancies your companions making,
Using those thoughts which should in deed have died
With them they think on? Things without all remedy
Should be without regard: what's done is done.

[18] One of my favorite Renée O'Connor moments is in this scene. Macbeth goes on and on about Duncan's death and Lady Macbeth beseeches him to be "bright and jovial among your guests tonight." Then Macbeth brings up Banquo, whom he has just sent assassins to kill, which makes him even more disturbed. Finally, Lady Macbeth darts across the stage to Macbeth, grabs him and shouts in his face, "You must leave this." It is an intense moment, for it is the first time we see her on the verge of breaking. The madder he gets, the closer she comes to losing it herself. This burst of hers brings him back down to a functioning state, whereby he hints of "A deed of dreadful note." However, he keeps her in the dark about the death of Banquo, by saying, "Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck, Till thou applaud the deed." O'Connor's expressions of concern are very strong and constant. Her focus is stunning to behold.


ACT III, Scene 4

[19] Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are at a banquet with their guests. This is when Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo and amazes everyone with his horrified reactions. Lady Macbeth must reassure the guests:

Sit, worthy friends: my lord is often thus,
And hath been from his youth: pray you, keep seat;
The fit is momentary; upon a thought
He will again be well: if much you note him,
You shall offend him and extend his passion:
Feed, and regard him not.

[20] At the same time, she must tend to Macbeth who has completely flipped.

Are you a man? ...
Oh proper stuff! This is a painting of your fear: ...
When all's done, You look but on a stool.

[21] She follows him about the stage as he tries desperately to get away from the ghost, while screaming and wailing for the ghost to go away, which it does. She tries in vain to snap him out of it. "My worthy lord, your noble friends do lack you." With the ghost gone, he tries to reassure the assembly that all is well again, but the ghost returns, and he flips out all the more. Lady Macbeth says to her guests:

Think of this, good peers,
But as a thing of custom: 'tis no other;
Only it spoils the pleasure of the time.

[22] Macbeth is now a whimpering heap in the middle of the stage with Lady Macbeth kneeling behind him trying to restrain and comfort him, as the ghost disappears again. Lady Macbeth says,

You have displaced the mirth, broke the good meeting, with most admired disorder.


Is this a dagger which I see before me?

The Mister and Missus


[23] Macbeth queries about the reality and affects of these visions. When a lord questions him, "What sights, my lord?" Lady Macbeth counters,

I pray you, speak not; he grows worse and worse;
Question enrages him. At once, good night:

[The men rise, but pause before leaving. But she urgently insists:]

Stand not upon the order of your going,
But go at once.
As Macbeth lies in her comforting arms, he marvels, "It will have blood; they say, blood will have blood."

[24] Naturally, that line brought visions of Xena and Gabrielle in WHO'S GURKHAN? I was also reminded by this moment of the many times Renée O'Connor and Lucy Lawless held one another in each others arms, comforting and supporting.

[25] The last bit of this scene shows how weary Lady Macbeth is becoming. Not only in keeping her husband from committing political suicide, but the weight of her own guilt is plaguing her face. This is a very physical scene for O'Connor. Macbeth is literally all over the place and she is continually trying to calm him and keep the peace. However, there is no hope of it, for Macbeth has turned the tide and there is no going back. By the end of the scene, you see in her eyes a look of utter defeat. They must ride this wave of destruction to the end. For her, she knows all will be lost.


ACT V, Scene 1

[26] Finally, we have Lady Macbeth's mad scene. And in true Renée O'Connor form, she saves the best for last. She enters, in nightgown, from the stage left stairs, carrying a lantern, with the observing doctor and waiting gentlewoman up stage right. She comes down to center stage miming the washing of her hands, with a tortured face. "Yet here's a spot."

[27] O'Connor does an incredible job with the mad speech. She takes her time and connects fully with every twist and turn of Lady Macbeth's thoughts.

[28] Lady Macbeth continues "washing" her hands, even more intensely, and shouts, "Out d-mn-d spot! out, I say!" Then quickly looks up, "One: two: why then 'tis time to do 't." A moment later she drops to her knees and cries, "Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him." She then sings a little ditty, "The thane of Fife had a wife: where is she now?" Then shifts back to her hands, "What, will these hands ne'er be clean?" At which point she rises, "No more o' that, my lord, no more o' that: you mar all with this starting."

[29] After the doctor and servant have an exchange, Lady Macbeth grimaces and reaches out about her, "Here's the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand." She falls to the ground again in sobs, "Oh, oh, oh!" O'Connor is seriously crying throughout this scene. It is very affective! She even had to wipe her nose at one point Saturday night.

[30] During another exchange between the two observers, Lady Macbeth suddenly rises and as if talking to Macbeth, "Wash your hands, put on your nightgown; look not so pale. - I tell you yet again, Banquo's buried; he cannot come out on 's grave." She goes to pick up the lantern. "To bed, to bed! there's knocking at the gate:" As she ascends the stairs, "come, come, come, come, give me your hand. What's done cannot be undone. - To bed, to bed, to bed!" She disappears down the back steps.

[31] In this last sequence, I was very impressed how O'Connor handled the repetition. She did each of them while moving and quite often in a stage whisper or undertone, as if talking to herself. Because she did them to movement, it extended them a bit, so that there were appropriate pauses and connections to her agitated state of being, which was further expressed in the way she moved.


ACT V, Scene 5

[32] O'Connor's final appearance in the play is when Macbeth brings her dead body out (her hands covered in blood) and props her up on the throne (in this case, an L-shaped box). Bringing her out on stage at this point is not in the script, yet I liked the effect it had on the scene. Moreover, it gave me something to look at and admire while he babbled on. O'Connor plays dead extremely well, I must say. She was all limp and motionless. Well done, indeed! It is interesting to watch Macbeth stroking and kissing her head, face, and neck, while ranting on and on about this and that, and she just lies there, her head leaning all the way back onto the upper portion of the box. That could not have been very comfortable, especially since she is there quite a long time. I kept expecting him to bump her during his rantings, thus sending her tumbling to the ground.


Conclusion

[33] It never ceases to amaze me how subtle, yet at the same time extraordinarily powerful and believable Renée O'Connor is in her acting. She never goes overboard in anything she does. Her choices are strong and clear, but without the need to overdo it.


The Cast and Crew

Angela Allen (Lady Macduff)
Chris Aruffo (Porter/ Murderer/ Doctor)
Austin Barrow (Ross)
Shauna Bloom (Witch #2)
Darin Dahms (Banquo)
Nelson Del Rosario (Caithness)
Martin Dorsla (Witch #1)
Brian Galyean (Menteith)
Andy Kallok (Duncan)
Ty Kamerman (Lennox)
Courtney King (Macduff Messenger)
Art Krispin (Macbeth Messenger)
Joe Lynch (Murderer/ Seyton)
Katy Bartlett May (Gentlewoman)
Betsy Moore (Witch #3)
Renée O'Connor (Lady Macbeth)
David Osborne (Siward/ Bloody Captain)
Taso Papadakis (Malcolm)
Jesse Runde (Donalbain)
Dylan Seal (Young Siward)
Eric Trevino (Fleance)
Kent Toussaint (Macduff)
Patrick Vest (Macbeth)

Kim Walker, Stage Manager
Ivan Giovanettina, Scenic Designer
Rhonda Dynice Brooks, Costume Designer
Doug Jacobs, Asst. Costume Designer
Erin Kampf, Publicity Director
Steven Schilling & Austin Barrow, Fight Choreography
Jesse Runde, Makeup Design
Lisa Coffi, Producer
Anna Andersen, Director

Click here for a PDF file of the Shakespeare by the Sea program for Macbeth (696K).


Articles

Sarah Mears, "An Interview with Patrick Vest", Whoosh! #73 (10/02)

Sarah Mears, "An Interview with Renée O'Connor", Whoosh! #73 (10/02)

Sarah Mears, "An Interview with Anna Andersen", Whoosh! #73 (10/02)


Biography

Sarah Mears Sarah Mears
Sarah hails from Ohio where she performed in and worked behind the scenes in some 50 stage productions. She's now living in Los Angeles trying to work professionally in the big, bad world of the entertainment industry. Sarah has been a faithful Xena: Warrior Princess fan since 1998. For more information about Sarah's work go to http://PrincessMoon.biz. Further ramblings from Sarah may be found at her fan website, The Acropolis, http://samxart.8m.com/acropolis.html.


Favorite episode: A DAY IN THE LIFE, ONE AGAINST AN ARMY, and FINS, FEMMES, AND GEMS
Favorite line: Gabrielle: "Lookin' good!" FINS, FEMMES, AND GEMS
First episode seen: SACRIFICE II
Least favorite episode: SOUL POSSESSION

 

 

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