STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
“Something wicked this way comes” – look out, Villanova! An ambitious duo’s on its way to take the Villanova Theatre stage in the Shakespearean masterpiece of manipulation, murder and mayhem, “Macbeth.”
Three witches predict Macbeth’s ascension to the throne, which gets him and his wife scheming and killing their way to power. Will they survive their rise? Power comes at what cost?
The production features Shakespeare’s language, but has sets and costumes of the mid-20th century. The press release says one of the goals is to explore the question, “What does evil look like in today’s world?” This version also has some gender-bending: “in a play that questions what it means to be a man and woman in Jacobean England,” several male and female actors play roles opposite their own gender, according to the press release, to reframe “the issues of gender in this traditionally testosterone-heavy play.”
It’s still the classic Shakespearean story, though.
“It’s about evil and how it manifests itself under the constraints of the Scottish kingdom,” said Kyle Fennie, a second-year acting scholar in the Masters in Theatre graduate program.
He plays Macbeth, who wants to be king, but lacks ambition. “He has loyalty to his king, then he’s poisoned with temptation,” Fennie said in a telephone interview. “The temptation pushes him to do something completely against his nature.”
His wife, Lady Macbeth, played by Meg Trelease, urges her husband to do whatever it takes to get the title.
“He’s noble and she’s ambitious,” she said in a telephone interview. “She feels he doesn’t have the steel in his veins that she has.”
Throughout the play, they switch places psychologically.
“They pass each other in the night,” said Trelease, who’s also a second-year acting scholar. “He winds up where she begins.”
In addition to being about power, she thinks the story is also about the Macbeths’ relationship.
“I think it’s a marriage that starts out strong and balanced,” she said. “When Lady Macbeth attempts to tip the balance, the marriage falls apart.”
It’s something they hope won’t ever happen to them – Fennie and Trelease are engaged to be married. And both performers, who live in Bryn Mawr, aim to leave the desperate downward-spiral duo on the stage each day.
“We’re not taking Mr. and Mrs. Macbeth home with us,” Fennie said.
Seeing her fiancé lose control as his character brings up varied emotions. As Lady Macbeth, Trelease has found “the sadness of watching your partner sort of become out of control and realizing the relationship won’t be the same,” she said. “It’s the idea you’ve done things you can’t change and you gotten to the point where you can’t go back.”
As Meg who loves Kyle, though, it’s exciting to see her real-life partner excel and explore material as a performer. It’s also helping her to be a better actor.
“He makes me raise my game,” she said. “As an artist, he’s so free. He’s so connected on stage.”
Fennie enjoys working with Trelease, too.
“It’s wonderful to have Meg on my side,” he said. “She has been nothing but supportive. She’s a pleasure to work with. To have Meg out there with me, it’s a safe environment to explore these really dark and nasty places.”
Both Fennie and Trelease hope that their relationship and also their performing careers will continue in a nice place, the Philadelphia region, after graduation.
“Philadelphia has a vibrant and amazing theater community,” said Trelease, who’s originally from Northern New Jersey. “It’s a great city to be an artist.”
It sounds like their coupling will turn out a whole lot better than that of the Macbeths.