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Review Roundup: MACBETH Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!

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Review Roundup: MACBETH Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!

Lincoln Center Theater, under the direction of Producing Artistic Director André Bishop, presents Bianca Amato, Shirine Babb, John Patrick Doherty, Austin Durant, Richard Easton,Francesca Faridany, Stephanie Fieger, Malcolm Gets, John Glover, Ben Horner, Ruy Iskandar, Brian d'Arcy James, Byron Jennings, Aaron Krohn, Jeremiah Maestas, Christopher McHale, Jonny Orsini, Sam Poon, Triney Sandoval, Nathan Stark, Daniel Sunjata, Patrick Vaill, Tyler Lansing Weaks, Derek Wilson, Ethan Hawke and Anne-Marie Duff in Shakespeare's Macbeth, directed by Jack O'Brien.

The production opens tonight, Thursday, November 21 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater (150 West 65 Street). Let's see what the critics had to say...

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: It's the Witches' world. Macbeth just lives in it. That's the only sensible conclusion to be drawn from Jack O'Brien's dark and dismal new production of "Macbeth"...Mr. Hawke, in turn, swallows many of his lines...He delivers Shakespeare's poetry like a moody, glue-sniffing teenager reciting Leonard Cohen lyrics to himself...And I feel bad that this should be the Broadway debut for Ms. Duff, a wonderful London stage actress...Here, she appears to have translated her latest London star turn as the neurotic heroine of O'Neill's "Strange Interlude," into iambic pentameter. Her Lady Macbeth is as high strung as an overbred whippet...I might have had more patience for this novelty at another time. But the triumphantly straightforward Shakespeare's Globe productions of "Twelfth Night" and "Richard III" now on Broadway, which trust so completely in the original words, make this "Macbeth" seem ponderous and gaudy.

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: Duff, making a triumphant American debut, is an exquisite Lady Macbeth...Duff expresses a range of emotions. She's initially taut and steel-spined as Lady Macbeth hectors her malleable husband into murdering their king, then gamely tries to cover for her unstable spouse during a sumptuously staged banquet. Duff subtly shows Lady Macbeth's triumph dissipating into unease and then despair, as she eventually gives in to madness...Hawke, previously directed by O'Brien for Tony Award-nominated work in "The Coast of Utopia," gives an equally impassioned performance, although his Macbeth is modern, introspective and boyish. He drifts around the stage, waves his arms despairingly, and at one point even seems to lapse into a Southern accent. While Hawke capably conveys Macbeth's inner torment and uneasiness with his crimes, his dialogue is occasionally mumbled or rushed, possibly due to his Macbeth-as-Everyman choice.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: "How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags?" That cheery greeting from the protagonist to the gender-bending Witches points up the most stimulating aspect of director Jack O'Brien's botched Macbeth for Lincoln Center Theater. Expanding upon the dark magic and occult elements of William Shakespeare's bloody tragedy, this monumentally scaled Broadway production creates bold visuals and eerie soundscapes, by turns cinematic and operatic. But the human drama is correspondingly dwarfed, thanks to a mixed bag of disharmonious acting styles led by Ethan Hawke's underpowered take on the title role.

Elysa Gardner, USA TODAY: One particularly puzzles at the logic of casting Hawke in this epic reading of the tragedy - full of sound and fury, emphasizing both supernatural imagery and the majesty of the text. Given his leading man, O'Brien might have done better with a scaled-down take on the Scottish play, perhaps updated and set in a hipster bar. But that's not entirely fair. Hawke has done his share of classics before, with varying degrees of efficacy. Still, there's no getting around the fact that he lacks certain fundamentals necessary to carry Macbeth, especially a staging of these proportions. There is the problem of his voice, a slight instrument that dips and darkens self-consciously, suggesting a mock villain more than a tortured man losing his psychological and moral bearing.

Linda Winer, Newsday: ...when the theater announced that O'Brien would direct Hawke in "Macbeth," one may be forgiven for assuming they had an urgent reason to revisit the play that New York has seen so often in recent years. As it turns out, that reason is not Hawke, who is oddly uncharismatic and too internalized to grab the spotlight from the tall, stark, elegantly vaulting set designed by Scott Pask. Nor is the wraithlike, well-spoken, thoughtlessly driven Lady Macbeth of Anne-Marie Duff, the fine British actress in her American debut, at the galvanizing center. In fact, the stars of this "Macbeth" are the supernatural creatures whose presence dominates -- even overshadows -- all the mortals in a throbbing parallel universe of witches, Hecate the Queen Witch (a character often omitted) and an entourage of furry thingies that suggest a road company of "Cats."

Matt Windman, AM New York: Thanksgiving is still a week away, but Lincoln Center Theater is already serving up a giant turkey in the form of Jack O'Brien's bloated, poorly acted and strangely conceived production of "Macbeth" starring Ethan Hawke...As Macbeth, not only does Hawke recite the text terribly, often mumbling, he plays the role like a flamboyant prima donna who has taken too many mind-altering drugs. Anne-Marie Duff, making her Broadway debut, portrays the characteristically icy Lady Macbeth as too frail. There are many fine actors in the ensemble, ranging from Brian d'Arcy James to Jonny Orsini, who fail to make much of a difference in this mess.

Melissa Rose Bernardo, Entertainment Weekly: Though his scruffy, still-boyish looks suggest the prototypical Hamlet, Hawke makes a very convincing (and wonderfully sleazy) Scottish king. And as Macbeth gains power, so does the actor. As Lady Macbeth, the sleepwalking, hand-washing, regicide-plotting woman behind the man, English actress Anne-Marie Duff maintains a delicate balance between imperious and docile, sexy and demoralizing. But director Jack O'Brien's stylish production...practically comes to a grinding halt when the pious Macduff (Graceland's Daniel Sunjata) and heir-to-the-throne Malcolm (Jonny Orsini) begin plotting their takedown of Macbeth. Sunjata overdoes every line he speaks, and Orsini is overwhelmed by the speech.

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: Self-awareness is part of Macbeth: He has plenty of moments when he is appalled by his own ego. But while those momentary hesitations are gist for some fine soliloquies, they do not prevent him from running his sword through much innocent flesh. He powers on. And that is what Hawke misses here. His is a tragic hero without drive; a protagonist who forgets whose name is on the marquee; a reactive, overly inactive Macbeth, looking to slide into a role that, for all the play's famous nihilism, still must be one of driving all the trouble out there on the heath. A fuller exploration of the pleasures, as well as the pain, of stepping over people can be found in the performance of Annie-Marie Duff as Lady Macbeth; Duff wants all of it, you immediately sense.

Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: On the downside, Daniel Sunjata ("Rescue Me," "Take Me Out") has the rugged presence to be a great Macduff, but speaks too floridly. Jonny Orsini, so fine last season in "The Nance," is too farm-fresh as Malcolm, even if Duncan's son is a bit naive. But, of course, it's Hawke's show. He shows little sign of the froggy-throated hoarseness that often pocks his stage performances. As Macbeth, he talks the talk and walks the walk - straight to hell.

Jesse Green, Vulture: It's not just Hawke. Except for a few performances - reliable Richard Easton's old King Duncan, Daniel Sunjata's exceptionally manly Macduff-the wonderful multiplying effect that occurs when actors fuse poetry with action is mostly absent here. (Anne-Marie Duff makes a very sexy Lady Macbeth, but her role somehow seems to recede in the midst of all the spells.) Still, there are images I won't soon forget: a trick bouquet of wilting flowers, Banquo's ghost in a glittering necklace of knives. Unfortunately, Macbeth is more than just what meets the eye; even the witches knew to feature tongue in their recipe.

Robert Feldberg, NorthJersey.com: This production is a case of a Shakespeare revival that likely wouldn't have happened without a star such as Hawke. It turned out to be a very interesting conception badly in need of a more suitable leading man.Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson

Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: Aside from a few heated moments - and not even that heated, in the grand scheme of "Macbeth" things - the titular murderous Scotsman seems less present than the ghosts who haunt him. Often Hawke mumbles in a monotone, as if dead-set on foiling those who accuse him of overacting.

Adam Feldman, TimeOut NY: Jack O'Brien's Macbeth is certainly striking in its dark designs. Scott Pask's talismanic set, Catherine Zuber's leather-heavy costumes, Japhy Weideman's sharp lighting: All combine to form a rich background for O'Brien's occultist concept, in which the three ambisexual witches (Byron Jennings, John Glover and Malcolm Gets) and their queen (Francesca Faridany) play unusually central roles in the action. Unfortunately, this only points up the enervating passivity of the production's central couple-a lethargic, unengaging Ethan Hawke as the regicidal lord and a thin, rushed Anne-Marie Duff as his scheming wife.

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