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.


Gen. Buck Turgidson said...

Don't hold back: what did you really think of Macbeth?

Mythical Monkey said...

I know you're kidding, but I'll tell you anyway. This is what I wrote to my brother in an e-mail this morning:

it was so bad that we talked about walking out at intermission, but katherine wanted to stick around to see if the second half could possibly be a bigger train wreck than the first. it was.

Ethan Hawke mumbled his lines in a flat monotone so that he neither seemed particularly ambitious nor particularly haunted after the bloody deed. the production centered on the three witches -- played by bearded men in drag who also played other parts so that even when the witches aren't on stage, they are. then there were people dressed up like giant cats or something, and there was the evil mythological goddess Hecate, who is in the play but never actually performed. until now. instead of a play about unhinged ambition, it wound up being about impish magicians.

we saw Stacy Keach play Macbeth about twenty years ago, so we know it can be done right. this was a study in how to do it wrong.

my review was actually pretty polite. the new york media savaged it (the press reportedly guffawed during the dress rehearsal) and even my fellow bloggers who were also there with free tickets have been scathing in their reviews.

mister muleboy said...

i like yer honesty, son, but i admire how you buried the lede

Mythical Monkey said...

You know, despite working for the college newspaper and editing one of the law reviews in school, I don't believe I've ever written the word "lede" before. Said it, never wrote it.

Who Am Us Anyway? said...

Man I wish i could've caught Godot with those guys. I saw Ian once in my life in a FREE (i might well add!) seat at the Guthrie in sunny Minneapolis that was scored by a newspaper friend. This was in 2007 or 2008. It wasn't a play but rather a "conversation" with the theater's director Joe Dowling. They were miked for the sitdown but at the end ian took off his mic & gave us a speech from a play I've never actually seen performed -- Sir Thomas More. Not a Shakespeare play obviously but I think he was thought maybe to have had a hand in portions of it. But the speech was amazing and amazingly delivered -- More is addressing a mob that's calling for the scapegoating of immigrants & More is saying, if you do that, the same will be done to you by other mobs in the future because they will see that civilization & law have been cast aside etc. Put rather better than that as you might expect ... but Ian was amazing: afterward i had to remind myself that he had been reciting lines rather than simply speaking from the heart.

Uncle Tom said...

so you're saying you finally got the lede out?

that's some joke eh boss