The curse of “Macbeth” has descended upon Thousand Oaks.
Actors know the curse well. In theaters where the blood-drenched drama is staged, some even refuse to utter its name, referring to it as the “Scottish play” to avoid the kind of toil and trouble that has beset the production now in rehearsal at California Lutheran University.
Since the cast’s first reading in early June, Macbeth was diagnosed and treated for a detached retina, a condition that “rendered him incapable of movement or raising his voice above a monotone for at least three weeks,” according to director Michael Arndt.
Macduff, who ultimately slays Macbeth, bowed out for a better job in Hollywood.
And just last week, a minor character named Donalbain fell off a roof, breaking his feet.
All three roles have been recast, and the play is set to open Friday, as scheduled.
For old Shakespeare hands, a production of “Macbeth” without a calamity is like a Three Stooges film without a flung pie.
In 1988, an 82-year-old opera aficionado dived to his death from a balcony at New York’s Metropolitan Opera during an intermission in Verdi’s rendition of the Bard’s shortest tragedy.
At an open-air production in Bermuda, Charlton Heston suffered severe burns to his groin and legs when winds blew torches across the stage and into the audience. Laurence Olivier was nearly struck by a 25-pound chunk of metal that toppled from above the stage; later a fragment of his sword hit an audience member, who had a fatal heart attack.
Arndt directed a “Macbeth” at Cal Lutheran 10 years ago that, aside from an actor’s twisted ankle, was as misfortune-free as a classic tragedy can be.
Years before, though, he saw a Macbeth in Minnesota collapse and die onstage.
“By comparison,” he said, “we haven’t suffered much.”