In Macbeth, there are no subplots. It's ironic that one of Shakespeare's most well-known plays is absent The Bard's hallmark illicit trysts and bumbling, disaster-prone duos, but it makes up for it with one of the most lurid explorations of evil, perhaps anywhere.
Charlie Fee, who directs the Idaho Shakespeare Festival's production of Macbeth in addition to serving as the company's producing artistic director, has this on lockdown. So does his Lady Macbeth, played by Erin Partin, who, at the June 5 performance, was a pitch-perfect moral foil to the rather tepid better angels of her husband, played by Lynn Robert Berg.
Macbeth, for the uninitiated, is the story of how its titular character saves Scotland from invaders, succumbs to avarice with the encouragement of his wife and becomes a murderous, paranoid tyrant. In its first half, the Macbeths talk themselves into committing regicide so Macbeth can become king. In the second, the couple starts to crack under the psychological and political consequences of their actions, fighting to hang on to power—literally for dear life.
Like Dante's "Inferno," the play hinges on inversions. Power is vulnerability and wickedness is a virtue. The best arguments favor active villainy and pummel passive righteousness. Macbeth the king, a father to his country, kills its sons out of wild-eyed paranoia; and his wife, well, this line says it all: "Come, you spirits that assist murderous thoughts ... to my female breast and turn my mother's milk into poisonous acid." Partin throws herself into her role as Macbeth's provocateur, intertwining with him in a hellward braid, and wherever she is on the stage is where audiences can look for the fire.