Good theater is timeless, Melia Bensussen will tell you, so it only makes sense that when you watch any production of Shakespeare's "Macbeth," you might think about what's going on in today's world.
"The play speaks to our own capacity to destroy ourselves and how the energy of our impatience, the desire to act immediately and not think about repercussions, is extraordinary," said Bensussen, who is directing a production of "Macbeth" for Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts, this month. "What is a good king, and what does it take not to be corrupt when you have all this power? That's certainly in the air we breathe these days. That's a wonderful question and I don't know the answer, but the challenges are timeless."
"Macbeth" stars Shakespeare & Company regulars Jonathan Croy as the title character and Tod Randolph as Lady Macbeth. Also onstage are Gregory Boover, Thomas Brazzle, Nigel Gore, Deacon Griffin-Presley, Zoe Laiz, Ella Loudon and Mark Zeisler. Bensussen, who is making her Shakespeare & Company debut, has directed at several regional theaters around Boston and the rest of the country, and is also on the faculty at Emerson College.
"We couldn't be more thrilled to have Melia Bensussen directing this classic for us here in the Berkshires," said S&C artistic director Allyn Burrows. "She and I have collaborated on a number of projects elsewhere, and I knew her keen sensibility, grasp of the material and powerful point of view would be a welcome addition to our process this summer."
Bensussen was born and raised in Mexico City to American parents and moved to San Diego for her final two years of high school. After graduating from Brown University, she spent some time in Czechoslovakia in 1989 during the Velvet Revolution, when one-party rule (Communist) was ended in nonviolent fashion.
"I was there on a theater exchange and during that time they were doing a lot of classics because you could feel a desperate need to find a place to have some dialogue that hadn't previously existed," said Bensussen. "There was a bigger appetite for work that explored the timelessness of some of these challenges. Historians know better than we do that this is not a unique moment in our history. There are familiar notes being played all through what's going on today.
"I don't know the answers," Bensussen continued. "I just immerse myself into the work and lose myself in Shakepeare's language. I can't speak to the great, big picture. I'm just amazed at how interesting Macbeth's story remains to us. To me, the story speaks about two people and the powers of imagination, and how it leads them to destructive behavior. I don't believe they were evil. No one begins evil. But their ambition and their impatience to achieve it leads them to destruction."
While Bensussen has directed Shakespeare on numerous occasions, directing the Bard at Shakespeare & Company is a real treat.
"It's been wonderful, a real pleasure to work with a company that lives and breathes the language," she said. "They are so familiar with the material it makes for a terrific experience. There are very few American actors that have that much Shakespeare experience as those working with this company."
Although she spent much of her life in Mexico and the West Coast, Bensussen is ensconced in the Boston area.
"Moving from Mexico City to San Diego was horrible because San Diego seemed like a sleepy little town in the '70s," said Bensussen. "I had spent some summers in New York growing up, so when I could I went screaming back to the East Coast. I had always loved New York and then I fell in love with New England. I was surprised at just how much I did fall in love with it."
The production began Tuesday with a preview performance and officially opens Saturday night at the Tina Packer Playhouse in Lenox at 7:30 p.m. The show runs through Aug. 5.
WHERE: Shakespeare & Company, 70 Kemble Road, Lenox, Massachusetts.
WHEN: Previews through Friday, opens Saturday and runs Tuesdays through Sundays through Aug. 5; performance times vary
HOW MUCH: $75-$20
MORE INFO: www.shakespeare.org, (413) 637-3353