Under the direction of The Santa Barbara Independent contributing writer Kit Steinkellner, the young performers of Upstage Left continue to push the limits of conventional staging with innovative performances of classic material. For this hour-long one-act version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the cast did away with any form of interior lighting in favor of handheld flashlights, which they mostly used by pointing them up at their faces, ghost-story-style. Steinkellner accompanied them on a laptop with a few snatches of effective but minimal background music. As with their previous production of Dracula, which also took place in the Unitarian Society sanctuary, the performers used the whole room, not just the stage, and even took the action outside, where it was visible through Jefferson Hall’s large windows. While the “Lights Out” device could, in other hands, have been a gimmick, due to the careful preparation and outstanding eloquence of the performers, this Macbeth was a delightful and scary success.
Emma Inglehart, Sommer Fox, Natalie Kellogg, and Juan Garcia all excelled in multiple roles, shifting easily from intense witchiness to, in the case of Inglehart, the noble and courageous resistance of Lady Macduff. Nick Blondell was a firm and pensive Banquo, while also doubling as Malcolm, Seyton, and a Messenger. Camille Umoff brought out the uncanny aspects of Lady Macbeth with style and sharp focus. Antonio De Nunzio fared extremely well in the title role and delivered Macbeth’s lines with force and passion. Finally, Blake Benlan as both Macduff and Hecate brought manic energy and vocal pyrotechnics to his every appearance. The lights may have been out, but this Macbeth radiated equal parts intelligence and excitement — even in the dark.