Monday, December 9, 2013

MACBETH at Lincoln Center

Jack O'Brien's production of Macbeth at Lincoln Center is unique in its sparseness. He retains all the classic elements, but the lines are sleek and modern. You'd expect "over the top" from the director of Hairspray, but he defies your expectations. The stage and characters are primarily dressed in black, with Lady Macbeth's white dress and the red splotches of blood serving as highlights.

The production seems economic, with the witches playing multiple characters, but could this doubling be purposeful? When you truly examine the plot, you realize that the witches are controlling all of the action in the play, so it only makes sense that they assume other roles in the ensemble. O'Brien has chosen to cast men as the witches, which is fine, but one in particular is dressed as a female and flits about the stage as if he were a teenaged girl. It isn't interesting or creepy as intended; it is just distracting.

Anne-Marie Duff is fantastic in the role of Lady Macbeth. I always forget how little time she spends onstage, but when she is onstage, it is powerful. Duff's training is evident through her diction and command onstage. She excels at the iconic moments from "unsex me" to "out damn spot". Ethan Hawke's Macbeth is putty in her hands. Speaking of which, Hawke's lack of Shakespearean training stands out in this otherwise very convincing cast. His actions are strong and he is visually energetic and exciting, but vocally, he seems out of place. His diction is not nearly as precise as the other characters; it is almost as if Macbeth is a Texan living in Scotland. Daniel Sunjata is a surprising standout in the role of Macduff. His stage presence radiates into the audience, his speech is impeccable, and most importantly, you root for him every step of the way. His Macduff is sympathetic, endearing, and the hero of the play.

Shakespeare can be difficult to watch if you are unfamiliar with the text or the style, but Lincoln Center Theater's production of Macbeth is highly engaging. The dark, brooding drama pulls you in from the opening lines, forces you to choose a side, and live with that decision as you await the bloody results.

Use the code "MACBLOG" for discounted tickets.

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