Thoughts from Dr. Joe: LCHS version of 'Macbeth' is exuberating show

I’m no longer writing the Great American Novel. It’s done! I’m now in the laborious editing process. So the other day while I was reading between the lines, a bunch of excited La Cañada High School kids stormed into Starbucks partying like it’s 1999. Their antics were not merely those of teens frolicking on a midday break. They were exuberant!

One of the boys, Elias Defaria, gave me an encouraging hello. It was apparent that something special had transpired causing their euphoria. I was curious.

“What’s up, Elias?”

He explained that they were the cast of LCHS production of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”

“You should come,” Elias exclaimed.

“It’s tonight,” Garret Schlundt announced.

“I’ll be there,” I said.

Poet Anne Sexton said, “Actors have no moderation, nor do poets, just exuberance!”

When I settled in at the La Cañada Playhouse on the LCHS campus I appreciated the simplicity of set designer David Miller’s configuration. “Macbeth,” Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, is a dark play filled with intrigue, deceit, murder, blood and the surreal intertwined around evil, power and ambition. A simple set complemented the complicated plot whereby corrosive psychological manipulation becomes the method to fulfill ambition.

Frankly, I didn’t know what to expect. A Shakespearean production is a complicated undertaking even for the most experienced thespians. The curtain opened and there stood the three witches, played by Josie Kamida, Eloise Dimase-Nordling and Laura Green. Their sinister antics transformed my suspecting nature and I was hurled into the macabre delirium of Macbeth, a thug played by Jacob Boham. I’ve seen “Macbeth” numerous times but these actors held me spellbound.

The witches predict Macbeth will be king. Problem! What to do with King Duncan (played by Charlie Depew). With encouragement from Lady Macbeth, played by Elle Kenwood, Macbeth kills the king to secure the kingship. “Who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him,” said Lady Macbeth. I couldn’t fathom that Jacob Bonham — the little kid I used to supervise at La Cañada Elementary School’s recess — was capable of murdering Charlie!

The sword fighting, which I believe is a trademark of director Justin Eick, enhances the tempo of the play. Jack Jones, Reed Buck, Skylar Joy, Richie Colburn and Gus Roueau authenticate the violence of close combat. They fight as men preferring swords; they can see into each other’s eyes. There is honor when everything is decided by the clash of a blade.

The actors create the juxtaposition between pageantry and evil. Macbeth’s lament, “They say blood will have blood,” brings the violence to a climatic crescendo. Violence! Whether it’s real or imagined, it is still violence. What I find magnificent is that the performers instilled a similar feeling of desperation in their portrayal of such.

Acting is not an easy endeavor; this is especially true of a Shakespearean production. Imagine learning and performing the extensive dialogues of William Shakespeare written in early modern English. Understanding the lines and then delivering the nuances of meaning is an accomplishment. Actors make you laugh and grieve. These kids standing on the stage held the hearts of the audience in their hands. They made us rejoice with a gesture or cry with a word. Their performances made me love them and I understood what power is.

I was spellbound throughout. Then Elle Kenwood as Lady Macbeth put the dagger through my heart and it was a slow agonizing death. As she descends into madness, she realizes nothing can wash away the imaginary blood on her hands. She cries, “Out, dammed spot! Out, I say!” She withers, transforming into a serpent possessed by Satan himself. Then Elle turns the knife. Slowly. She gurgled, “What’s done cannot be undone.”

At the end of their performance, the cast gathered in front of the auditorium. I found joy watching them. I thought of novelist John Coetzee’s words, “To be full of being is to live as body and soul.” One word that describes the experience of full being is “exuberance.”


JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a retired professor of education and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at Visit his website at

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