Wednesday, February 27, 2008
There is a compelling chill-to-the-bone nastiness to director Rupert Goold's production of The Scottish Play (previously in London, now at Brooklyn Academy of Music and soon on Broadway) that makes up in visual interest and visceral excitement what is lacked in clarity. (The unacquainted would likely find this a confusing introduction to Macbeth). Thanks to rear projections (often stretching the entire width of the creepy tile and steel fit-for-a-horror-movie set) the mid twentieth-century dress production is big on sound and fury, although it isn't always clear what's meant to be signified, and there are many brilliant and effective staging choices (including a stunning directorial conceit for the pivotal banquet scene) that keep the show engaging and visually fascinating for nearly all of its three hours. Although the production is not without some missteps (the characterization choices for The Porter are so over the top that they cross the line from creepy to silly) and there are some weak performances in the ensemble, the three performances that matter most are all sensational and help to make this don't-miss, "event" Shakespeare. Patrick Stewart is masterful as Macbeth from start to finish, traveling credibly from morally conflicted sabateur to power-mad paranoid. As Lady Macbeth, Kate Fleetwood is suitably intense and driven initially, and gives the character a touch of emasculating cruelty. And finally, as Macduff, Michael Feast economically renders anguish and anger in what is the production's most lingering emotional scene.