Macabre and Metaphysics Intertwine in Macbeth at Lincoln Center Theater

We are all familiar with the story of Macbeth, the Scottish warlord who would become king partly on the count of the Three Witches.  After a victorious battle, Macbeth encounters the Three Witches and upon doing so is told he will be king.  Macbeth and his wife then plot to murder Duncan, the current monarch.  Under the guise of merriment and despite Macbeth’s reservations, he and his wife welcome Duncan and his kinsmen into their home, get the king’s chamberlains drunk and assassinate the king.   Newly crowned, Macbeth descends from sovereign to psychopath murdering his loyal friend Banquo.  A second caucus with the Three Witches only heightens Macbeth’s paranoia and prompts him to have the family of Macduff, a fellow kinsman, murdered.  Meanwhile, Lady Macbeth, overcome with guilt, plummets into depression and begins to sleepwalk.  Eventually she commits suicide.  Macbeth is ultimately vanquished by Macduff and Duncan’s eldest son Malcolm becomes king.

MB4No matter the interpretation, the theme of the supernatural is constantly present in “Macbeth”.  You can’t get away from it, but what makes Shakespeare’s work so genius is that the interpretation of his plays depends on the road you take.  Director Jack O’Brien’s offering of “Macbeth” chooses to take the metaphysical path.   In this version, the Three Witches aren’t just a trio of wacky soothsayers convening around a cauldron. Oh no. These conniving necromancers morph into other characters on stage, thus taking on the personas of puppet masters ensuring their marionettes move their strings in the exact order they desire. The witches’ almost ubiquitous presence calls into question the subject of fate and action.  How much of Macbeth’s destiny relied on his own ambition or that of the Three Witches? Was Macbeth’s belief in the witches’ prediction responsible for all the events that followed? How responsible are Macbeth and Lady Macbeth for their actions if their actions were just pit stops along their destined path?  Jack O’Brien’s interpretation of this classic tragedy sets the mind ablaze with questions about the workings of the universe and the individual’s role in it to create good or evil. What I find most intriguing about this production is that O’Brien doesn’t attempt to supply the audience with answers, the answers you must discover for yourself.

The visuals of “Macbeth” only intensify the mystical happenings on stage.  From the moment the audience takes their seats and views the carved mandala, they become keenly aware of the conjuring set to take place.  And just like the actors, we are at the witches’ mercy, forced to watch two lovers plunge headlong into the abyss of destruction.  Along with the sacred symbol of the universe, the production is draped in the primary colors of black, white and blood red – hues that have meaning in the occult.  The lighting provides a stark perception of the actors making the tragic events more exaggerated and the imagery more daunting.  The costumes and sets courtesy of Catherine Zuber and Scott Pask produce a minimalist, sleek quality without dedicating itself to one particular time period.

MB3And what of the thespians who resurrect the bubbling and boiling characters full of toil and trouble? Color me impressed.  The vernacular of Shakespeare is a language we learn in high school and unless you take courses in it in college, there it stays. If not performed correctly, the rich wording of Shakespeare’s prose can come off like pubescent ramblings of students looking for a mid-term grade.  Some reincarnations of Shakespeare’s plays I have witnessed as of late have possessed this puerile quality.  Not so with this production.  Led by Ethan Hawke, the cast as a whole is more fair than foul.  I’ve viewed productions where actors performed Shakespeare as if they were competing for top prize in “Who Can Scream Loudest.”  Hawke’s Macbeth is a combination of shrewd underplaying offset by fierce outbursts of emotion.  He is the personification of a man slipping into darkness.  As Lady Macbeth, Anne-Marie Duff is sensational.  She embodies the grace of a queen and psyche of a sociopath. Together Hawke and Duff brilliantly represent one word…karma.  Malcolm Gets, John Glover and Byron Jennings portray the pied pipers of wizardry in this numinous production.  Although they look like rejects from “RuPaul’s Drag Race”, the sorcerers don’t just play to win, they play for keeps.  The havoc they render adds the spice that makes this supernatural gumbo complete.  On a surprising note, I was pleased with Daniel Sunjata’s Macduff.  Though a bit heavy handed in his delivery at times, he proved to me that he is more than just a pretty face.   What I enjoyed most about the production was its fluidness.  It moved like a choreographed dance, constantly adding layers.

MBChristmas hovers in the air, tis the season to be jolly, but for Hawke and company tis the time to be wicked, the naughty reign supreme at The Vivian Beaumont Theater.  “Macbeth” has a limited run and ends on January 12.  Take a break from tidings of cheer and take a walk down the paranormal path.  Without a doubt, this production is worth seeing.

Photos: T. Charles Erickson

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Macbeth Gets Abstract

Pablo Picasso once stated, “Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.”   By using color, line and form, abstract artists, like Picasso, create works that are considered free from traditional visual references.  The deconstruction of the customary form allows the viewer to interpret the art however they desire.  This fall, the timeless words of Shakespeare are receiving an abstract spin courtesy of director Jack O’Brien.  Macbeth, starring Ethan Hawke, is playing at Lincoln Center Theater until January 12.  Steeped in colors of black, blood red and white, this production explores the adverse realities that plagued Macbeth’s mind thrusting the audience into the eye of a nightmare.  But do not believe me; see the faces of Macbeth for yourself!

To learn more about Macbeth at Lincoln Center Theater please visit the following sites:

Website: http://www.lct.org/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LincolnCenterTheater

Twitter: @LCTheater

Golden Boy Dazzles with Sweet Science

Golden Boy

Move over De La Hoya, there is a new golden boy on the scene.  He is 75-years-old and has been here before.  The sweet science of boxing is on display in the revival of Golden Boy at the theater in which the play premiered 75 years ago.  Golden Boy opened November 4, 1937, ran for 250 performances and was playwright Clifford Odets biggest hit.  It seems that everything old is new again at the Belasco Theatre and all that glitters is still gold for Golden Boy.

3.181244The play is set in 1930s Manhattan and focuses on Joe Bonaparte, a budding violinist that is torn between his passion for music and the irresistible attraction to fame and success that can be gained from the blood sport of boxing. Young Joe is exceptional at both, but he must choose one as the wear and tear of boxing will obliterate his ability to play music.  Against his father’s wishes, Joe chooses boxing and gets sucked into the undertow that can come with riding the wave of success, which ultimately leads to his demise.

4.181243It is apparent why the allure of they play is still so appealing.  At the heart of Golden Boy lies the eternal challenge of balancing want and need.  The genesis of the play was born from Odets’ struggle to balance art and materialism, and every character in the play deals with it.  Joe wants to be a great musician, but his need for fortune overpowers him.  Joe’s father wants his son to choose music, but the need for a parent to allow a child to find their own path makes Mr. Bonaparte loosen his grip on Joe.  Lorna Moon, the dame from Newark, wants to be with Joe, but the need to be taken care of and remain loyal to her boss, who also happens to be Joe’s manager, forces her to stay with Tom Moody.  Tom wants to get rid of Joe, but the need to finally be successful clouds his judgment.  No character in the play finds the balance they desperately seek, displaying how difficult it is to achieve it.  The question of balancing want and need was just as imminent in 1937 as it is in 2012 and like the best art; Golden Boy leaves us to brood about the questions that are at the core of life.

4.181245The cast of this revival shine with the shimmer of an unearthed nugget.  Seth Numrich excels as the tragic Joe Bonaparte.  Watching his emotions teeter back and forth as he spirals into the abyss of meaningless fame is like taking a ride on the Cyclone – in one word he is thrilling. Tony Shalhoub is magnificent as Joe’s immigrant father.  His performance is beautifully heartbreaking.  Danny Mastrogiorgio and Yvonne Strahovski are memorable as Lorna Moon and Tom Moody.  Along with the sets of Michael Yeargan and the costumes of Catherine Zuber, the cast splendidly resurrects the time period and material Odets wrote decades ago.

The famed Hailey’s Comet blazes across our atmosphere every 75 years, it appears this play may also share the same time schedule as the legendary solar system body.  Golden Boy will be playing a limited 10-week engagement at the Belasco Theatre.  It is a play that is definitely worth its weight and should not be missed.

Photos: Paul Kolnik

Cover Art courtesy of Serino Coyne

The Lamb’s Club and Cast of Golden Boy Creates Winning Combo

Golden Boy 006

In boxing, having a big power punch is always a good tool to have in one’s arsenal when looking to land a knockout, but generally it is a consistent set of combination shots that wears an opponent down and ultimately wins the fight.  Last Tuesday, The Lamb’s Club, Serino Coyne, Lincoln Center Theater and the cast of the revival of Golden Boy delivered a 24 karat TKO during their buzzmaker event.

Members of the press were invited to visit one of Times Square most elegant eateries and learn more about Golden Boy, now in previews at the Belasco Theatre.  While munching on succulent appetizers from The Lamb’s Club dinner menu such as, Yellowfin Tuna Tartare, Spicy Veal Meatballs and Pork Belly with Puff Rice, bloggers, journalists and photographers were introduced to cast members Danny Mastrogiorgio, Danny Burtstein, Brad Fleischer, Karl Glusman and Seth Numrich (who plays Joe Bonaparte).  Also on hand, were sketches of the costumes designed by Catherine Zuber, which included a blue dress that pays homage to the actress haunting the Belasco Theatre.

The pre-performance event possessed a buoyant atmosphere as cast members answered questions, shared their training routine as well as engaging anecdotes about how they became a part of the 75-year-old revival.  Golden Boy features a glimpse of New York City in the 1930s and the sophisticated, metropolitan ambiance of The Lamb’s Club bar made the perfect compliment to an already blithe and dashing affair.  Outside of meeting the cast, the highlight of my evening was the discovery of my new favorite cocktail – The Gold Rush.

Chef Geoffrey Zakarian and partners have created quite a dining gem in the heart of the theater district.  Along with its swanky décor and exceptional cuisine, The Lamb’s Club possesses an affinity for the arts. The restaurant hosted an event for the cast of Chaplin the Musical in August and features live jazz at the bar on Wednesdays.  And for hungry audience members looking to get a bite to eat before or after attending Golden Boy, The Lamb’s Club is across the street from the Belasco Theatre and offers pre and post theater dinner options.

105982.GB.PinterestKeyArtAll and all this buzzmaker event was a sparkling start to an evening that also included a great night of theater.  Golden Boy premiers December 6 for a 10-week run at the Belasco Theatre, I suggest taking a note from the past this holiday season by getting dressed to the nines, having dinner at The Lamb’s Club at six, catching a performance of Golden Boy at eight and treating yourself to a good old-fashioned night of dinner and a show in the city.  If you are feeling particularly lucky, you may want to enter Golden Boy’s Pinterest contest, http://pinterest.com/lctheater/golden-boy-contest/.

To learn more about Golden Boy or The Lamb’s Club, click www.lct.org or www.thelambsclub.com/.

Photo and Slideshow:  F.A.M.E NYC, Golden Boy Poster courtesy of Serino Coyne