Thursday, December 5, 2013
Ten Things I Liked (And One Thing I Didn't) About The Stage Revival Of Shakespeare's Macbeth Starring Ethan Hawke And Currently Playing At The Lincoln Center In New York
1. Because I am a world-renowned critic, the tickets were free. Free is my favorite number.
2. New York City is one of my favorite places on Earth, especially at this time of year when all the store windows are decorated for Christmas.
3. The Vivian Beaumont Theater at the Lincoln Center is a great place to watch a play. Not a bad seat in the house.
4. Instead of a long line to check coats there, they have individual lockers, and they are free. Again, free is my favorite number. I have decided all theaters should have free coat lockers.
5. I expect the work of the playwright, a fellow named William Shakespeare, to be a staple of the theater for generations to come.
6. Ethan Hawke was wonderful in the Before film trilogy (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight). All three are available on DVD.
7. The show on Tuesday started at 7 p.m. instead of the usual 8, which meant we were out in time to stop by Starbucks on our walk back to the hotel and still watch Modern Family reruns in our room.
8. A side trip to the New York Historical Society is well-worth your time. If you've never been to New York, I wouldn't put it at the top of the list, but if you go there often and want to see something otherwise overlooked, this a good bet. I'd recommend you make a lunch reservation in the excellent restaurant (go for the pasta dishes), see some exhibits in the morning, take a break, then some more in the afternoon.
9. Also highly recommended: Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in Waiting For Godot. Hilariously, movingly brilliant.
These two heavyweights of stage and film are longtime friends (McKellen officiated at Stewart's wedding) and the easy rapport shows. If you haven't seen it or read it, the title tells you the plot, but the play's success depends on how the actors choose to interpret their parts. Stewart's decision to play Vladimir as a gently amused, concerned, prodding pal looking after Estragon, his friend of fifty years, adds a tenderness that was missing from other productions I've seen. And you might not know it from their movies, but Stewart and McKellen have impeccable comic timing and a gift for broad physical humor resulting in many belly laughs.
That Samuel Beckett's absurdist masterpiece also wistfully prods you to think about that whatever-it-is that keeps you from getting on with your life is icing on the cake. If you can possibly get to New York during this play's run, go and see it.
10. The New York subway system is our favorite way to get around town. It's reasonably priced and goes everywhere.
The one thing neither Katie-Bar-The-Door nor I liked: the production of Macbeth itself. It's terrible. Genuinely, shockingly terrible. I didn't think it would be possible to screw up one of Shakespeare's best plays—the story of an empty suit filled with murderous ambition—but I was wrong. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I am the gentlest of gentle critics. I want to like everything I see and do and I wanted to like this production of Macbeth. I really, really did. But, oh boy, did I not.
Look, Ethan Hawke has been great before and he's going to be great again. There were a couple of good supporting performances from Brian d'Arcy James (Banquo) and Daniel Sunjata (MacDuff). The tickets were free, the weather was nice, we didn't get mugged. It wasn't a disaster. But I can't recommend it.