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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
MACBETH
at the Lyceum

BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS
By MARK BLANKENSHIP

  Patrick Stewart and Kate Fleetwood/PH: Sara Krulwich

Sometimes, I see shows from the very back row. Though my press seats send me to the sweetest part of a Broadway theater's orchestra section, I feel it keeps me fresh to spend a few nights in the nosebleeds: If my position in the theater is going to radically change my experience, then doesn't that say something about a show?
Asking that question, I headed to the upper balcony of the Lyceum Theater, where Rupert Goold's traveling production of Macbeth is running through May. (A transplant from England, it played earlier this year at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.)


Turns out, there were plenty of things I couldn't see.


Critics have praised the subtlety of Patrick Stewart's performance in the leading role, as well as the bold originality of Kate Fleetwood's Lady Macbeth. But since I couldn't catch the details of their faces, I focused on their booming voices and broadest gestures.


From that vantage, the couple seem to be in different plays: Stewart keeps everything close to his vest, barely escaping his troubled thoughts even when he's covered in blood, Fleetwood, meanwhile, ticks like a time bomb from her very first line. Every moment is delivered at the highest pitch-whether Lady Macbeth is helping her husband ascend to power or regretting the murder that made him king-and the effect is numbingly repetitive.
The contrast between the two performances only accentuates the fussy stylization of both. I concede they could feel more nuanced up close.


Proximity, however, can't change the set. The towering, filthy walls and clanging metal doors suggest an insane asylum or an abattoir-instantly defining Goold's subversive approach. And since the set doesn't change, the entire play gets trapped by this hoary attempt at edginess. Macbeth is about more than diseased leaders in a rotten state, but the design won't let it be.


Only the Weird Sisters thrive in this moldy chamber. They appear in most of the scenes, skulking around as party guests or sick-ward nurses when they aren't predicting Macbeth's future. Their quiet, constant presence is a sinister jolt, and there's a delicious thrill in guessing when they'll turn up next. The rest of the show could benefit from that sense of surprise.

 


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