Thursday, April 03, 2008

Something Bloody This Way Comes

"MacBeth" at the Lyceum Theatre, April 1, 2008

(Photo: Manuel Harlan)

Transferring to Broadway after a sold-out run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music last month, this British import has lodged at the Lyceum for a limited run.

With Patrick Stewart in the title role, it's no wonder the attraction to this unusual production. The plot is still a bit stupefying in operatic proportions, and Rupert Goold's placement in a quasi-Stalinist era kitchen doesn't really add much for me.

Mr. Stewart gets to play quite a bizarre range of moods, from fearful and hesitant before his ascent to the Scottish throne, to an almost Caligula-like impetuousness. In the end, he's so resigned to his fate and such a victim of bad luck that he can't even kill himself.

I found Kate Fleetwood's Lady MacBeth to be the more interesting interpretation. At her first entrance, she's young and glamorous, as well as a power hungry climber, pushing her husband well beyond his comfort and, likely, his sense of right and wrong to his first act of assassinating the current King Duncan (Byron Jennings). Almost as quickly as the deed is done, she begins her disintegration into insanity. By the time we get through Banquo's ghostly appearance, she's well on her way to her very effective mad scene.

Other standouts include Christopher Patrick Nolan's porter, Seyton. Greasy and profane, he oozes foreshadows of MacBeth's fall that is yet to come. Michael Feast's MacDuff smacked a bit too detached in early scenes, but rose to the moment when he learns the fate of his wife and children.

I did like the treatment of the witches first as nurses, then as housemaids. The rap version of "Double Double Toil and Trouble" felt a bit more comic than might have been intended.

The staging also seemed to take on a totally different feel toward the end of the first act (Banquo's ghostly appearance). What had been relatively straightforward staging and use of the space before suddenly felt much more conceptual and abstract. Duncan's murder happens off-stage, then suddenly we get a very stylized murder of Banquo on a train. I hadn't remembered from senior English class that his murder lined up so closely with that of Rasputin (poisoned, stabbed and shot - the only act missing was dropping him in the river.).

Despite the pre-show hype, discount tickets seem to be readily available. It's worth the visit.

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