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By the Pricking of My Thumbs

Foodbank Players perform Macbeth through April 28

The Foodbank Players Macbeth opened this past Sunday under gray skies made chilly from the short storm that canceled their Saturday performance. Their eighth production, and fifth Shakespearean play, is perhaps their strongest in terms of talent and tight direction.

Alameda Post - the witches from Macbeth stand around the cauldron
Hecate, played by Jennifer Morrill, with witches Anika Rose, Katya Schiesser, and Frida Schiesser. Photo Adam Gillitt.

At the top are the partners in greatness, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, played by Players veteran Luis Araquistain and newcomer Darrah Jones. The synergy they create and share is outstanding, with Mrs. Mac the exhorter and Mr. Mac the mild-mannered loyal soldier turned killer. Araquistain plays the famous Thane with a Clark Kent demeanor in the beginning—the kind of person you’d trust with your taxes—but who later cries out that his mind is “full of scorpions” and then, later still, stands over his victim with a menacing snarl. His arc from uncertainty to self-actualized slayer is impressive.

Jones is marvelously terrifying as both the brains behind the operation and the engine of evil. A former child and high school actor from Alameda, Jones has returned to the stage with a fierceness and focus that is exceptional. Striding back and forth in the Healing Garden, her movements and voice sing strength and intensity and a sizzling charisma. From her first scene she makes it clear: Do. Not. Mess. With. This. Lady.



Alameda Post - a group of Macbeth actors stand onstage performing
Jennifer Strach (Lennox), Kelsey Goeres (Malcolm), Karin Jensen (Donalbain), Luis Araquistain (Macbeth), Ben Rings (Banquo), and Lisa Appleyard (Macduff). Photo Adam Gillitt.

The supporting characters in Macbeth have a unique challenge. Their lines are less famous but are essential to telling the story, and this production is fortunate to have several outstanding actors playing those parts. Lisa Appleyard takes on MacDuff and wonderfully handles the physicality of the part as well as the emotional challenge of conveying tragic loss. Kelsey Goeres is Malcolm, child of the slain Duncan, and instantly announces her skills vocally and with assured movements. Robin Beeseley portrays her sibling Donalbain, and later the servant Seyton, with great energy and poise. Jennifer Morrill also plays two parts—Lady MacDuff and Hecate—and is impressive in the contrasting roles. Likewise, Ben Rings is doubly cast, as the suspicious Banquo and later the avenging Siward. He’s really good. Bruce Kaplan and Jennifer Strach take on Ross and Lennox, soldiers who turn against Macbeth, but also help to keep the audience updated in several narrative scenes. Standing or sitting side by side, they handle the challenging language with confidence and style.

Alameda Post - an actress in a long white gown points menacingly into the audience
Darrah Jones as Lady Macbeth. Photo Adam Gillitt.

Special praise is earned by the younger actors in the show—Aaron Bruce who plays Fleance and MacDuff Junior, Frida and Katya Schiesser as witches and murderers, and Anika Jensen, who is part of the cackle-and-kill crew and then becomes Young Siward. Those familiar with recent Foodbank Players shows will recognize them, taking on new parts with growing confidence and blossoming talent. Contrasting these kids are a trio of experienced thespians who are terrific: Bill Brobeck as Duncan and the doctor, Donna Blevins as Caithness and chorus, and David Weiner as solder/porter. Additional cheers are earned by Karin Jensen who, with but a week to prepare, stepped in as Donalbain/Seyton for the opening weekend. And Yelanis Rivera is the stage manager/prop master extraordinaire in her third play with the troupe.

A fun element of Macbeth are the props, which play an important part—actual swords, maces made from plumbing parts, and clubs with nasty nails add to the heroism of the combatants, while all the odd objects going into and out of the classic cauldron add spooky spice. Someone had way too much fun putting all of this together.

Alameda Post - actors in Macbeth perform onstage
Ben Rings (Siward), David Weiner (Porter), Bruce Kaplan (Ross), Kelsey Goeres (Malcolm), and Lisa Appleyard (Macduff). Photo Adam Gillitt.

Macbeth runs the next two weekends, April 20, 21, 27, and 28 at 4 p.m. in the Healing Garden, 1435 Webster Street. As is the tradition with the Foodbank Players, there is no charge for admission but donations are happily accepted, both electronically and in the familiar orange buckets. For more information about the play and company visit the Foodbank Players website or thefoodbankplayers on Instagram.

Gene Kahane is the founder and director of the Foodbank Players, a lifelong teacher, and former Poet Laureate for the City of Alameda. Reach him at [email protected]. His writing is collected at AlamedaPost.com/Gene-Kahane.

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