Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review: Macbeth at The Duke on 42nd

Fans of Macbeth have plenty of chances to see Shakespeare's tragedy this spring. Cheek by Jowl's version starts its BAM run at the beginning of April. Punchdrunk's Sleep No More, in which audience members wander through a hotel as actors reenact scenes from Macbeth, is currently running, as is Theatre For a New Audience's staging of the Scottish Play at the Duke. I caught the latter this weekend.

John Douglas Thompson plays the Scot and is once again directed by Arin Arbus (I sadly missed their previous collaboration, Othello, which earned rave reviews). This is a pretty straightfoward production of Macbeth, aside from a few quirks such as casting bearded men (Tommy Schrider, Andrew Zimmerman, Saxon Palmer) as the witches. If you want to see a non-gimmicky approach to the play, that might be reason enough to see it with all the other options, but if that's not enough, the scenes between Thompson and his Lady Macbeth (Annika Boras) should be. TFANA Playbills include a page of quotes about the show called "Perspectives." One in particular stood out to me: "In the ritually bloodstained, all-male warrior world of Macbeth, achieving any male-female relationship as close as that of the Macbeths is an anomaly. The tragedy at the heart of this play isn't just that they destroy Duncan, and Banquo, and Macduff's family, however shocking and affecting those losses are; it's that they destroy their own marriage in the process."-Michael Dobson; "Portrait of a Marriage"

I agree with this assessment, but have never seen it so fully realized. When Macbeth returns home towards the beginning of the play and greets Lady Macbeth, Boras and Thompson are convincing as a couple genuinely in love. It is this chemistry at the beginning that makes their undoing tragic. There is fine restrained acting all around, but the other standout is Albert Jones as Macduff, whose pain upon learning of the death of his family adds to the real and human feel of this production.

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