Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

February, 2011

Timothy D. Stickney


“There are lots of ways to look at Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  It’s eerie, it’s bloody, it’s political.  Paul Mason Barnes, the director behind the Rep’s brilliant productions of Amadeus and Saint Joan, takes cognizance of those perspectives.  But he presents Macbeth above all as a mood piece, a vivid dream his audience can share.  When you ‘wake up,’ you might just find yourself trembling as you try to catch your breath.  It’s powerful theatre.

“Of course, Barnes doesn’t achieve that effect all by himself.  He makes the most of his big, impassioned cast, led by Timothy D. Stickney as bold Macbeth and Caris Vujec as his determined Lady, convincing him to seize the Scottish throne.

“But when it comes to mood-setting, credit belongs to a superb design team:  Michael Ganio (sets), Dorothy Marshall Englis (costumes), Kenton Yeager (lights) and Rusty Wandall (sound).

“The designers draw actors and audience into the world of the play, drenched in blood and emotion.  Some moments promise to be unforgettable.”

“This Macbeth shows us scenes too strange to submit to rational thinking.  Vivid dreams rarely do.”

    Judith Newmark

    St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Raucous, highly physical, blood-soaked.”

“Paul Mason Barnes, who directed a dazzling Saint Joan here several ears ago, made Macbeth into an action-adventure tale that showed a variety of influences.

“Shakespeare’s plays lend themselves to lots of changes, but the Rep decided to keep his original time frame.  Then, costume designer Dorothy Marshall Englis ran with a universal approach that ranged from Roman armor to 19th-century British Army greatcoats.  It all worked beautifully, and Marshall found a perfect blood red to highlight garments for many characters, but to totally soak Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.  Kenton Yeager’s lights added an exclamation mark to many sentences and many characters, and Rusty Wandall’s sound, underlined with a complete range of drumbeats, from ghostly to immediate, provided some impeccable background.  It all took place on Michael Ganio’s stark set, with red entrances.”

    Joe Pollack

    St. Louis Eats and Drinks

“The Rep’s new production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth opened last night on its main stage in Webster Groves to a spontaneous and sustained standing ovation that went all the way around the crowded house of some 750.  It was directed by Paul Mason Barnes, with scenic design by Michael Ganio that did just the opposite of steal the show: it delivered.  The stage was spare, so the actors had the opportunity to just act and to deliver Shakespeare’s language.”

    Chris King

    St. Louis American

“If Macbeth isn’t the most visually arresting show I’ve seen at the Rep, it comes close.  

“Director Paul Mason Barnes seems not to have blocked this show, as much as choreographed it. . .  right through to the curtain call, as carefully designed as the rest of this significant production.”

    Andrea Baum

    The Vital Voice

“The timeless and harsh human realities of Shakespeare’s Macbeth have never been better presented in St. Louis than they are in the Rep’s new production.

“Director Paul Mason Barnes displays for us an unflinching view of the dark designs and wretched consequences of the warrior Macbeth and his murderously ambitious wife.  Barnes’ design is to let the characters exist as originally written and allow the audience to brutally experience the pain and ruthlessness of their demise through Shakespeare’s perfect writing.

“The production is so authentic that in Act II, when Macduff’s wife and children are being murdered at Macbeth’s orders by having their throats sliced, several audience members actually let out a muted scream, strong evidence that the play had plunged it’s own steel into the collective consciousness of those in attendance.

“I f you miss Macbeth at The Rep, you are missing one of the best presentations of Shakespeare ever done in St. Louis in every respect.”

    Harry Hamm


“Theatre at its finest.”  “A compelling production.”

    Chris Reilly

    The Kirkwood-Webster Groves Patch

“There are a lot of ways to go with a production of Macbeth but Paul Mason Barnes makes a strong argument for getting back to the basics.  His production, now playing on the Mainstage at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, is a strong ensemble performance punctuated by solos, i.e., soliloquies, which honors Shakespeare’s text while also making good use of modern theatre technology.

“The pace is so snappy that scenes almost overlap with one set of characters leaving the stage while another is arriving.  That’s not a complaint – in fact, I wish more companies planning Shakespeare productions would take note.”

    Sarah Boslaugh

    Talkin’ Broadway

“Director Paul Mason Barnes creates an encroaching terror punctuated by the witching scenes.  The ritualistic practices of the diabolical trio are mesmerizing and the sense of impending doom continues almost unabated.”

    Sheila R. Schultz


“Since I’ve become a theatre critic I’ve had the opportunity to see several productions of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and most have left me wanting in one way or another.  But, just as Roman Polanski’s gritty 1971 film adaption is, for me at least, the best interpretation of the Bard’s play that has been made into a movie, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis has produced a staging that is vastly superior to any I have encountered to this point.  This dark, bloody, and brooding production of Macbeth provides an excellent evening of theatre, and features a talented cast and powerful design and direction.

“Director Paul Mason Barnes has put together a thrilling production that drips with gore and hubris, and he’s greatly aided in his efforts by the stark, but effective scene design of Michael Ganio, which focuses our attention on the action and the actors.  Kenton Yeager’s lighting and Rusty Wandall’s sound design add considerable atmosphere, and Dorothy Marshall Englis contributes the eclectic costumes.”

    Chris Gibson

    Broadway World

“The Rep’s Macbeth is bloody brilliant.”

“The almost skeletal nature of the story allows directors a great deal of leeway to interpret the tale; director Paul Mason Barnes has chosen to build a tale of political intrigue on these rock-solid bones, and in so doing delivers a thrilling version of the Scottish play that is as much about the secretive actions of our political leaders as it is about the rights of ascension in ancient Scotland.”

    Paul Friswold

    The Riverfront Times

“Director Paul Mason Barnes puts his own distinctive mark on the play with a handsome interpretation that is beautifully modulated and transfixing throughout.  Barnes’ pacing is as vigorous as the myriad action scenes that play effectively under the guidance of fight directors Brian A. Peters and Shaun Sheley, including some nifty sleight-of-hand with knives slitting throats that elicit ‘blood’ most impressively.

“The Rep’s staging of Macbeth is exhilarating and breathtaking in its scope.  Barnes and the Rep deliver a mesmerizing and intoxicating interpretation of one of the Bard’s most superior effort, clearly demonstrating its timeless appeal.”

    Mark Bretz

    The Ladue News


What I learned. . .

The third time isn’t necessarily the charm, but it sure helps.  These plays are rich, deep, and complicated enough that it takes a director (this one, at least) several “go’s” in order to stand a chance of approaching their greatness.  And Macbeth really throws down the gauntlet.  You’ve got murders, severed heads, witches, ghosts, apparitions, moving forests, sleep-walking, some of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches. . .  and just when you think you’ve found a solution to one particular challenge, another one is there to confront you. I’m not sure I conquered each of these challenges, but it was a heck of a lot of fun trying.

What became clearer to me this time around was that there’s a specific decision in each of Macbeth’s soliloquies that moves him inexorably forward toward that door marked “E” through which he ultimately hurls himself headlong without regret or remorse.  Hadn’t seen that as clearly in the two other productions of the play I directed.  

And, oh yes: if you make the slaughter of the Macduff family as graphic, brutal, and bloody as possible, people really listen to the English scene.