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Courtesy of Louise Guinther
Macbeth (Andrew Dinan) battles Macduff (Jim Chamberlain) in the Gingerbread Players’ production of Shakespeare’s classic.
By Tammy Scileppi

First staged in 1606, Shakespeare’s ghoulish masterpiece about the bloody downfall of a Scottish general and his power-hungry wife who murdered their king for his throne reveals the extremes of ambition, power and guilt.

And what better time to experience Macbeth’s dark imagery and the creepiness of those three cackling witches, than during this Halloween season?

So, if you’d like to keep that All Hallows Eve spirit alive a little longer, don’t miss The Gingerbread Players’ four amazing performances, when they present the bard’s darkest tragedy starting Saturday evening. Shows will run through Nov. 11 in the English Gothic-style sanctuary of Saint Luke’s Church, one of Forest Hills Gardens’ most striking architectural gems.

Ghosts and witches drive the play’s action and interact with the murderous thane and his cold-blooded Lady, played by current Gingerbread Players cast members and stalwarts, Andrew Dinan and Lauren Butler, with Jim Chamberlain as the avenging Macduff and Bernard Bosio as Macbeth’s fellow general, Banquo.

Take Lady Macbeth. This strong, feisty gal doesn’t take any crap from anyone. Her ambition and strength of purpose is contrasted with her husband Macbeth’s tendency to waver, and it’s clear she’s willing to do whatever it takes to seize the throne when she tells him to man up and kill King Duncan…or she’ll do it herself.

“I love that she is proactive and goes after what she wants with all of the tools in her arsenal,” Butler said. “Unfortunately, she has a very bleak worldview (she’s a product of her environment, after all) and isn’t able to derive much satisfaction from life.”

A few years ago, the actress had the opportunity to play her first villain (Natasha in “Three Sisters”) and said she loved it.

“Of course, Lady Macbeth is the greatest Shakespearean villain, so I’m in heaven,” Butler said. “A role like this can be emotionally and physically exhausting. However, like all hard work done with sincerity and passion, there’s a personal satisfaction in doing it.”

While she really enjoys performing, the Forest Hills resident explained that “it’s not straight enjoyment like eating ice cream — more like the elation after running a marathon.”

In one of the most famous speeches in all of Shakespeare, Macbeth utters these words after hearing of Lady Macbeth’s death. Their love was great, and the audience will come to understand the depths of his despair after her passing. With armies marching against him, Macbeth comes to terms with his disastrous ruin and says…

“She should have died hereafter.

There would have been a time for such a word.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

To the last syllable of recorded time.

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle.

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.”

“The corruption of power and ambition and the need to guard against it, is a tale that is relevant to every time and place,” said Dinan, who lives in Forest Hills near the stadium. “Macbeth never backs down even when all hope is lost. Unlike Richard III, he is not innately evil, not a sociopath. He could have been great if just a few things had played out differently. As he becomes more and more consumed by his ambition for earthly power, he becomes more and more a monster making worse and worse choices.”

Dinan has been in 40 or so productions during his 21 years with the Gingerbread Players.

So, why are Macbeth’s themes universal and still relevant today?

“The Scottish play is about the dark side of human nature, and the choices we make to dedicate ourselves to the common good or to our own self-interest. The witches represent the evil that lurks within us, that we can either give ourselves over to or defy,” said Shakespeare-lover and Macbeth director Louise Guinther, whose parents were involved in the Players’ founding.

“There is so much drama in the language that if it is spoken well, you almost don’t need anything else. I have been longing for years to try my hand at creating a worthy production,” Guinther added. “It’s always a challenge to fill out the cast of a big Shakespeare play like this one with actors who are as devoted to Shakespeare’s brilliant language as I am. And I am thrilled to say that this show seems to have brought out all the best Shakespeareans in community theater.”

Working their usual magic is the company’s stellar production team. And for the first time, local artist Michèle Fenniak is putting her original stamp on some of the show’s most ominous visuals.

In the spring, The Gingerbread Players will be producing “Shrek the Musical,” with a mixed cast of kids and adults

Performances of “Macbeth” at St. Luke’s — located at 85 Greenway South — include a 7:30 p.m. show Nov. 3, and three matinées at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 4, Nov. 10, and Nov. 11.

A suggested donation of $15 ($12 for groups of six or more), the Players remain one of the best theater bargains in town.

Gingerbread cookies and other home-baked goodies will be on sale during intermission.

For more information and to reserve tickets, call (718) 268-7772 or visit www.gingerbreadplayers.org.

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