Communication sophomore stars in Chicago adaptation of ‘Macbeth’
February 23, 2017
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For her lead role in a Chicago play, Communication sophomore Caroline Chu returns to senior year of high school. But this time around, the stakes of the college application process reach Shakespearean proportions.
Chu currently stars in First Floor Theater’s production of “peerless.” The play follows the plot of “Macbeth,” but instead of Lord and Lady Macbeth vying for the throne, it follows twin sisters whose driving ambition is to get into “The College.”
Chu’s character, L, is the equivalent of Lady Macbeth, while her onstage twin M, played by Chicago-based actress Aurora Adachi-Winter, corresponds to Macbeth. There are only three other characters in the show: D stands in for King Duncan, BF for Banquo and Fleance, and Dirty Girl for the three witches.
Though the story does not have an overarching message, Chu said it functions as commentary on the college application process and a cautionary tale on the dangers of ambition. Director Hutch Pimentel said it reminds people of the fine line between language and action.
“Teenagers always say, ‘Oh my gosh, I could totally kill him.’ In this play, they actually do,” Pimentel said. “It’s an interesting twist on teenage hyperbole.”
The play is written by Jiehae Park, an Asian-American woman, and stars two Asian women. This representation of women of color was part of what drew Pimentel to the play, he said.
Chu, who is half Asian, said she also thought it was important to bring exposure to voices like Park’s. This is the first role written specifically for an Asian woman that Chu has played, she said.
“It doesn’t really have an activist message necessarily, but the act of putting on a play by an Asian woman about Asian women is important,” Chu said.
Despite its dark content, Chu said, the show includes a lot of humor. She said the playwright described it in his notes as “a comedy until it’s not,” as it devolves from funny to scary.
The play is the first professional production Chu has acted in outside of school, she said, which has been an “unforgettable process.” Chu said she is the youngest in the five-person cast.
Cammy Harris, one of Chu’s friends at Northwestern, said Chu has been a “reverent fan” of Chicago theater for years and had already known of many of her costars from seeing their work.
“She has been so deeply entrenched in that community her whole life,” the Communication sophomore said.
Chu said she has faced some challenges working on “peerless” due to its fast-paced dialogue, especially in the unique interactions between the twins L and M.
The twins often finish each other’s sentences, bouncing back and forth with lines that are one or two sentences long, Pimentel said.
To get the two actresses in sync, Pimentel said, they rehearsed facial expressions in front of a mirror and Chu dyed her hair to match Adachi-Winter’s more closely. These days, Pimentel said, the two actresses have grown close and even unintentionally dress alike sometimes.
Though Chu doesn’t think she has much in common with L — Harris described Chu as “an adorable human being” — she said she enjoys portraying a complex and slightly evil character.
“There’s a quote I read from Alan Rickman, who was one of my favorite actors growing up: ‘If you judge a character, you can’t play it,’” Chu said. “I’ve really gotten to understand that now.”