Wednesday, April 09, 2008

"Out, Out Damn Spot"

Woot! MacBeth, my favorite play of all time by William Shakespeare made its latest debut on Broadway yesterday at the Lyceum Theatre in NYC and I couldn't be more thrilled. Patrick Stewart, who will live on forever as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation, stars as the overzealous and power-hungry Scot who plots murder and usurpation with his wife Lady MacBeth in a bid to rule Scotland at the urging of a trio of Weird Sisters at the height of his military fame. If you're not familiar with the play MacBeth then I sincerely urge you to put it on your reading list and check it out (incidentally, I just picked up the new novel Lady MacBeth which tells her story in a more favorable way, from her perspective ... but I'm getting off point). This latest incarnation of the play has been updated to take place in more modern times but the spirit and text of the original setting has been kept in tact:

A successful, ambitious actor is likely to be drawn at a certain stage in his career to the role of Macbeth, then at some later date to King Lear. At 67, Patrick Stewart would seem more ripe for the latter — that is, until you see him on stage in director Rupert Goold's overstated but fascinating Macbeth (* * * out of four), which opened Tuesday at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre ... [I]n Goold's production, which premiered at the U.K.'s Chichester Festival Theatre and later ran in London and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Stewart looks as lean and spry as a decathlete. He's an older Macbeth, certainly, but a well-preserved one. As Goold has set the tragedy in some unspecified Stalinist nation, we don't see the British actor in kilts, but he could wear them without humiliating himself. His Macbeth has good reason to stay fit: namely, the missus, played by the physically stunning Kate Fleetwood as a trophy wife on speed. When this Lady Macbeth, galled by her hubby's reluctance to commit the first of what will be a smorgasbord of murders, tells him that she would "have pluck'd my nipple" from her child's "boneless gums, and dash'd his brains out," you believe her. You also believe that Stewart would resort to similarly extreme measures to make her happy. As if one hysterical, high-maintenance woman weren't enough, Macbeth must also contend with the three Witches — played by Polly Frame, Sophie Hunter and Niamh McGrady — whom Goold presents as nurses, servants and, at one point, rappers. They don't don hip-hop garb, but given the conceptual and sensual sprawl of this production, enhanced by Lorna Heavey's post-psychedelic video and projected images and Adam Cork's alternately ominous and cacophonous music and sound design, it wouldn't have been surprising if they had. Yet these flashy features, plus high-pitched performances by Michael Feast as Macduff and Christopher Patrick Nolan as the demonic porter, are miraculously put in context by Stewart's witty, nuanced work, which reveals Macbeth as an intelligent, rational person driven to madness by outside forces and his own violent transgressions. There is something of Lear — and Hamlet, too — in this portrait of a thoughtful, corruptible man.

I think I've seen pretty much every Hollywood adaptation of MacBeth (including the genius indie film Scotland, PA which tells the MacBeth tale with a fast food empire twist) as well as a few theatrical interpretations (Erik and I went to a Hillberry production of the play at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI one Valentine's Day where Scotland was presented as a leather and bondage sort of place) so I am very excited that there is a new one opening on Broadway. I love Patrick Stewart and I can't *wait* to see him in this role. I'm a fairly big Shakespeare fan (I audited a Shakespeare course in grad school [after taking all the classes I could in undergrad] just cuz I wanted to take on the Bard one more time) and I'm sure there are other Billy S. fans out there as well. This production sounds really cool ... I hope to be able to see it on my next trip back to NYC. [Source]