Murderous ambition

Actor Timothy Stickney wants people to leave theater thinking. That's why he has delayed performing in William Shakespeare's Macbeth until now.

The New Jersey-based actor, best known for his portrayal of R.J. Gannon in ABC's "One Life to Live," had a chance to perform "The Scottish Play" in 2004, but didn't want people trying to draw parallels to that year's presidential election.

"This play is about ambition and the consequences of action," Stickney, who will play Macbeth in the New York State Theater Institute's production that's opening this week, said. "Macbeth is powerful as the Thane (a Scottish feudal lord) of Glamys, then he becomes Thane of Cawdor and falls prey to his ambition."

That ambition, urged on by his wife, Lady Macbeth, causes Macbeth to kill Duncan, the king of Scotland, so he can become king himself. While it's tempting to blame Lady Macbeth " and perhaps the three witches who at the beginning of the play foretell Macbeth's future " nobody at NYSTI is producing this play as destiny that must be fulfilled.

Stickney sees Macbeth as a version of a timeless question: "What would you do to advance your ambition?"

"This story has relevance to humanity," said Elizabeth Swain, who's directing the production. "If you make a wrong move, you pay the price."

While many productions of "Macbeth" emphasize the history of the piece, Swain is going for universality.

"It takes place in no time; in a universal dark place," she said. "The costumes are modern, but have a past sense about them. The actors wear military gear. Macbeth enters an evil, dark world."

If you've never been to a Shakespeare production, or have felt put off by one, Sarah Howes, director of public/media relations and marketing for NYSTI, said this is a good one to start with.

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