It may seem hard to believe, but betrayal existed long before "Law and Order." And Shakespeare's Macbeth tells a classic story wickedly.
You probably know the plot: A power-hungry warrior and his ruthless wife become embroiled in a saga of murder and destruction that eventually saps them of their own humanity. Throw in some prescient witches, a foggy, creeptastic forest and some extremely beautiful words -- that's Macbeth.
The tragic Shakespeare standby also is known for inspiring one of the wackier showbiz superstitions. Legend has it that if anyone says the word "Macbeth" or quotes any lines from the play inside the dressing rooms or backstage, bad luck immediately will be cast upon the show.
Numerous productions have been "cursed," including those staring acting wizard Konstantin Stanislavski and movie giant Orson Welles. Even Charlton Heston was tormented by the spell. He was in a terrible motorcycle accident during rehearsals; then, while riding a horse in the opening performance, he received burns on his thighs and groin area from tights that had been soaked (either accidentally or purposefully) in kerosene.
But Murray Ross, director of Theatreworks' current Macbeth production, defies the superstition.
"We say 'Macbeth' at every moment," he says, laughing.
So far the company seems to have avoided any major trials. Macbeth, which inaugurates Theatreworks' 30th season, opened as a touring production, with performances in Lone Tree, Salida and Holyoke.
"It's played in a tent, a proscenium theater and a junior high school," Ross explains, "and people have been really receptive. But it will be nice to come home!"
Gene Gillette, who was named Best Actor last year by The Denver Post for his rendition of Stanley in Theatreworks' A Streetcar Named Desire, returns to the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater in the title role with his own perspective on the character.
"I had this poster of Macbeth from the World Shakespeare Festival. It was just a picture of Macbeth's face, and I kept staring at his eyes," Gillette says. "I always saw him as this purely evil guy before, but he's really tormented. He has hallucinations, the witches conspire against him, and then he has to deal with his own ambition. I'm not making him the typical Darth Vader evil guy."
Besides, that wouldn't fit with Ross' vision for this show.
"I think it's wise not to settle in one time period," Ross says. "Modern productions of Shakespeare can resonate with younger audiences, but they can also trivialize the work. We've tried to avoid early Scotland and medieval fashions -- sorry, no kilts -- and are going for a more classic look."
Ross also assuages those who fear the long-windedness often associated with Shakespeare.
"Macbeth is Shakespeare's swiftest tragedy," he assures. "I just directed Hamlet in Virginia and that show can run four-and-a-half hours. I cut very little from Macbeth. It'll run just under two hours. It's unusual for Shakespeare because it's telling just one story, the story of the Macbeths, the crimes they committed and the consequences of those crimes."
-- Bettina Swigger
Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater, 3955 Cragwood Drive
Wednesday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; also Saturday, 2 p.m. and Sunday, 4 p.m. Show runs through Sept. 4.
Tickets: General admission tickets free on a first-come, first-served basis; reserved seats are $22-$25.
Call 262-3232 or visit uccstheatreworks.com for reserved-seat tickets or more information.