This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

14Dec/13

SHAKESPEARE’S MACBETH

(photo by T. Charles Erickson)

Ethan Hawke stand alone in Jack O’Brien’s dark and blustery LCT production of MACBETH (photo by T. Charles Erickson)

Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center Theater
150 West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave.
Tuesday - Saturday through January 12, $77-$157
212-362-7600
www.lct.org

There’s a whole lot of loud noises and shouting in Jack O’Brien’s blustery adaptation of Macbeth at the Vivian Beaumont, but it ends up being all sound and fury, not signifying enough of anything. A game Ethan Hawke stars as the Thane of Glamis, returning home with Banquo (Brian D’Arcy James in fine form) after a thrilling victory over Norwegian forces. He meets a trio of witches (an impassioned Byron Jennings, an undistinguished Malcolm Gets, and a creepy John Glover with quite a pair of boobs) who predict that he will be promoted to Thane of Cawdor and then become king of Scotland while also proclaiming that Banquo’s kin will ultimately gain the throne as well. Upon being named Thane of Cawdor by King Duncan (a surprisingly ineffective Richard Easton), Macbeth starts wondering about the rest of the prophecy, but his wife (a too-delicate Anne-Marie Duff) decides to take action, assuring his ascendancy by concocting a plan in which they murder the monarch in their house and place the blame elsewhere. But power corrupts and guilt haunts, making things very difficult for the paranoid new leader, who trusts no one, not even the loyal Macduff (Daniel Sunjata, delivering the show’s best, most heartfelt performance).

New MACBETH is all sound and fury (photo by T. Charles Erickson)

New MACBETH is too much sound and fury (photo by T. Charles Erickson)

O’Brien, who has scored success with The Coast of Utopia, Hairspray, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and The Nance but fallen short with Dead Accounts and Impressionism, bathes the production in a lurid black and red in the first act, adding white and gold in the second, courtesy of Catherine Zuber’s costumes and Scott Pask’s set, anchored by a large circle on the floor carved with alchemical symbols inspired by a late Middle Ages mandala known as the Seal of God’s Truth. The mandala serves as a symbol of all that is wrong with this production; O’Brien relies far too much on the magical aspects of Shakespeare’s play. Each of the three witches plays other characters as well, still costumed in their witch’s garb, and answer to Hecate (Francesca Faridany, who seems to have escaped from Game of Thrones). Their undue prominence makes it appear that they are manipulating the action, wresting human will and desire away from the characters, particularly Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, who are like puppets following a preordained curse. Hawke (The Coast of Utopia, Blood from a Stone) is bold and brave as Macbeth, but he never quite gets the Shakespearean rhythm down, and he shouts way too much. In her Broadway debut, Duff (Nowhere Boy, Saint Joan) is actually not given all that much to do, as her character fades away into the background. And poor Jonny Orisini (The Nance, An Early History of Fire) is a disaster as Malcolm, reciting his lines like he’s reading the morning paper. Mark Bennett’s overly loud sound effects, Jeff Sugg’s unnecessary video projections, and Steve Rankin’s slow-motion fight choreography all contribute as well to there being fewer people in their seats after intermission than there were at the start of the play.

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