Sunday, October 27, 2019


The production of Macbeth at the Classic Stage Company (CSC), directed and designed by John Doyle, is a streamlined affair. It runs 1:40 without an intermission; it has a cast of only nine people; it makes do with a bare wooden thrust stage with movable benches and a plain wooden throne; and the costumes are simple, in dark colors and topped by overlong blankets.

Corey Stoll
Photo: Joan Marcus
I'm not sure who the audience is supposed to be. The production is pretty straightforward, so it would seem to be appropriate for a wide range of audiences, including newbies. However, many of the performers play multiple roles, and it can be difficult to tell who they are, particularly since women sometimes play men, the costumes give little clue as to class or position, and characters who are family members are cast from different races. I don't mean to criticize these decisions per se. I enjoy multicultural casting, and I would gladly live in a world where Mary Beth Peil is king. But the decisions detract rather than add to the play's intelligibility.

Mary Beth Peil
Photo: Joan Marcus
The audience at the performance I attended was full of young people, in their teens and even younger. Some watched attentively; a few fell asleep; some seemed to be daydreaming; and most laughed at any moment that was funny in a familiar and recognizable way. They particularly enjoyed Nadia Bowers as Lady Macbeth (as did I), and I suspect that's because she has the gift of making Shakespearean English sound clear and even contemporary. Bowers also does the evil thing rather deliciously. Overall, however, the show does a disservice to young audiences by obfuscating rather than elucidating the goings-on.

Nadia Bowers
Photo: Joan Marcus
(A strange and distracting problem with this production is the cumbersome blankets that the cast members must schlepp around. They frequently threaten to trip up the performers--and sometimes actually do. At one point, Lady M rises in a pointed and sinuous manner from lying atop Macbeth. It's a fabulous piece of character work, except that the night I saw it, Bowers had to keep kicking away part of a blanket that had caught her foot.)

Of course, Macbeth ultimately relies on the quality of the actor essaying the lead role. Corey Stoll is uneven. Sometimes he is compelling, clear, and even fascinating. Other times, he seems curiously uninvolved. His version of the famous speech after Lady M's death is so off-hand as to be little more than a bunch of words.

Overall, this is not a must-see Macbeth. It's not bad, but it's also not distinct or distinguished. It just kinda is.

Wendy Caster
(third row, audience right, press ticket)

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