With all due respect to the powers that be at Lincoln Center, their very dark and dreary production of MACBETH at the Vivian Beaumont directed by Jack O’Brien and starring Ethan Hawke is a nightmare. Some of it on purpose, but most of it not. Take a look at all the empty seats and you know something’s rotten in Dunsinane long before Birnam forest arrives.
Enunciation and projection. Two very important qualities that are missing from Ethan Hawke’s portrayal. The other being a believable character. He can rant and rave but he is much too contemporary in an otherwise period production that at times seems to be channeling The Hobbit with bombastic music by Mark Bennett.
One would think that if Ethan Hawke took the time to memorize all those words that he would want to share them with us – so that we could at least hear what he has to say. The coughs coming from the audience are so much clearer.
Lady Macbeth (Anne-Marie Duff) has her own vocal problems. She is truly British, with a sharp accent which stands out like a sore thumb as she garbles most of her speeches.
To boot, there is an absence of chemistry between the two supposedly hot for each other, treacherous and ambitious villains no matter how much they grope each other.
The three witches. Played by men. As they would have been played in the time of Shakespeare. Only here they do not work as well as the men playing women in the Old Globe productions of Twelfth Night and Richard III.
Byron Jennings, Malcolm Gets and John Glover get to camp it up as they proclaim their prophesies to Macbeth and Banquo (an excellent Brian d’Arcy James) that set this tragedy in motion, whetting the appetite of Macbeth and his wife to commence their killing spree to become King and Queen of Scotland.
Mr. Glover, doubling as the Porter, has an unfortunate “Knock, Knock” sequence that attempts to include an unwilling audience (house lights up) with the stupid joke.
In time (seeming like many hours later) Macbeth is warned to “beware Macduff” (a terrific Daniel Sunjata who has the voice and presence lacking in so many of the other actors sharing the cavernous space that appears to be a dark and ominous sound stage – under Mr. O’Brien’s cinematic and misguided direction).
The always dependable Richard Easton makes for a fine Duncan, King of Scotland and could give some of his co-actors some tips in performing a Shakespearean tragedy not a Shakespearean nightmare.
www.lct.org Through Jan 12th
Photos: T. Charles Erickson
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