What? No Macbeth Opening Night Review Thread? (SPOILERS)

nomdeplume
Broadway Legend
joined:6/20/05
Broadway Legend
joined:
6/20/05
The delay of opening for previews is never a promising sign, but this production of Macbeth at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park by The Public Theater's New York Shakespeare Festival needs a quick overhaul or it will be in big trouble with the critics.

This being one of my favorite plays, I am hoping they can clean up this train wreck, and will offer what I can for suggestions. How they chose Moises Kaufman, who has no background in directing classics to direct Shakespeare in the Park is beyond me, but he is clearly in WAY over his head and needs an experienced classicist director to help him out. Quick!

First there is the problem of Jennifer Ehle as Lady Macbeth. She is butchering the verse of Shakespeare and totally miscast as Lady M. If only they would quickly exchange her for the brilliant actress Ching Valdes-Aran, onstage as Weird Sister #2, that would immediately solve the problem. Ehle races where she shouldn't, emphasizes where she shouldn't, goes for comedy when she shouldn't, squeals in a high-pitched annoying head voice constantly, is completely ignorant of the rhythm in the verse and is so clueless she is completely unaware of how terrible she is in the role.

Possibly if Ehle spent all of her days studying dutifully with a RADA/RSC actor coach she could improve a bit before opening, learn to use the verbs, not to sit on the lines, etc. But frankly, I hold no hope for her success and think they should REPLACE her quick. When there are brilliant actresses out there like Kathryn Meisle and Emily Bergl from whom words fall as pearls from their mouths, why did they have to go with this lame "naturalistic" TV-type actress Ehle? And to think the Park will be boasting the fine Meryl Streep later in the summer.

Liev Schreiber is a gifted actor, great voice, comfortable in the verse, strong presence. (I see him on the streets sometimes and in the subway as he lives near me. He is always deeply private, eyes downcast.) At this point he seems to me to still be exploring in his process for the role, not there yet. (I imagine it is very hard to play off Ehle.) As of Wednesday night, his emotions were way magnified and "out there." Looked like he was taking every emotional consideration out to its furthest extreme, exploring them, and had not reined them in yet for performance. The rehearsal delays regarding rain don't really make any sense to me, wasn't there an indoor space big enough that they could have still rehearsed the play in, at least to go through this part of the process before you got before an audience, even if previews? I expect that he will be reining it in within the next couple weeks to give a more internalized, more powerful performance.

I hope Kaufman is not directing it for an emotional overdisplay because this Shakespearean tragedy would only suffer from that approach. I don't think Liev needs to jump up on the table to get our attention. I don't like a big emotional screaming mess, I prefer my tragedians to crack heartbreakingly and more subtly, not be gushing down on the floor at the first opportunity and every one thereafter. In fact, I don't like them to gush at all. I like them to be trying to maintain face and hold it all together.

There were times when Liev had not quite got the lines down, again he seems still in the process, with a misread on "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" somehow trying to attach it to the prior news of Lady M's death, instead of moving on there in a new thought which needs to happen to make sense of the line.

[As an aside, if anyone else saw Liev in the film "Sum of All Fears," he makes a fantastic and intense filmic presence as a secret agent, and I believe he should have been a serious contender as the new James Bond.]

One further abysmal casting is the screeching Florencia Lozano giving a hysterical-from-the-getgo winceable stab at Lady Macduff. Ghastly. Clearly no comprehension of the verse or her role whatever. Here again, there are so many talented actresses who could go to town with this little plum of a role it is very hard to sit and watch it being butchered. A replacement is screamed for here, but I gather this summer's audience is just going to have to sit and suffer through it.

Costumes are a total mishmash in the production, with various different style military jackets. The coronation scene for some odd reason gives Ehle a white bridal gown that seems absurd. Conjuring whom? Evita? Even, and it is horrid, the witches or Weird Sisters are wearing hideously unflattering ashy shroudish gray military uniforms.

Which brings up two brutal flaws toward the play's end. First, there is a sudden battlefield scene where, in this swordplay play, a whole bunch of long guns appear with the soldiers on the battlefield for an affected fall by gunshot slowtime balletic nonsense. Second, the returning forces ready to reclaim Scotland for the forces of good, analogized to the WWII allies, mouth off before the jarring presence of a sudden long stick microphone, much more in the Hitler or Mussolini style. Who's the Hitler here? Macbeth's second wears the long dark leather jacket of the Nazi SS so is there a major bit of confusion here? Please don't give the mic to Macbeth, just get rid of it.

As to the set. I wish they would clear the mess off both sides of the set which is passing as some kind of modern gray war wasteland but which is just ugly rubbish that blocks the view from low seats near it. Gimme a flat openstage for the actors to move around on. And I see no reason to have the ugly two metal towers to each side of the set frontispiece. For what? The two unnecessary chandeliers for the coronation scene? To hold up a few lights that could be hung elsewhere? The frontispiece on its own would be fine without the excess towers and rubbish.

The Scottish play is supposed to be cursed and associated with all kinds of mishaps. But not this bad.

Hie thee! Get to 't! Fix the damn thing quick!

2006 All Rights Reserved nomdeplume by pseudonym


Updated On: 6/29/06 at 12:32 PM
Calvin Profile PhotoCalvin Profile Photo
Calvin
Broadway Legend
joined:7/27/05
Broadway Legend
joined:
7/27/05
So -- better or worse than the Kelsey Grammer version?
Updated On: 6/16/06 at 12:35 PM
Yankeefan007
Broadway Legend
joined:3/20/04
Broadway Legend
joined:
3/20/04
Running time?
nomdeplume
Broadway Legend
joined:6/20/05
Broadway Legend
joined:
6/20/05
It starts at 8:30 PM because I guess they wanted it to be darker and spookier, but that is nonsense, they should stick to 8:00 PM.

I do not know the exact running time, but it is not that long. One thing I will give Moises Kaufman credit for is he keeps the pacing brisk.

The rest of the cast is doing their best, I particulary liked Jacob Fishel as Malcolm and all the Weird Sisters, Joan Macintosh, Ching Valdes-Aran and Lynn Cohen, who delightfully doubles as Porter.

Calvin, I didn't see the Kelsey Grammar version, apparently thankfully.
Gothampc
Broadway Legend
joined:5/20/03
Broadway Legend
joined:
5/20/03
I hope they fix it. I don't think I've ever seen a good, live production of this play. Which is a shame because it's such a great play.
If anyone ever tells you that you put too much Parmesan cheese on your pasta, stop talking to them. You don't need that kind of negativity in your life.
Yankeefan007
Broadway Legend
joined:3/20/04
Broadway Legend
joined:
3/20/04
What time did you get out?
nomdeplume
Broadway Legend
joined:6/20/05
Broadway Legend
joined:
6/20/05
I do not recall exactly what time it ended, Yankeefan007.

I did casually glance at my watch on the way home and if I remember correctly, it was maybe something before eleven, but don't hold me to it.
Madame X Profile PhotoMadame X Profile Photo
Madame X
Broadway Legend
joined:7/13/03
Broadway Legend
joined:
7/13/03
Yes, it runs about 2.5 hrs.
"Some of us have it worse, you know, Dana. Some of us are dating lesbian men. Okay? C'mon."
MargoChanning
Broadway Legend
joined:4/5/04
Broadway Legend
joined:
4/5/04
Macbeth is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and usually runs around two hours in most productions.

"What a story........ everything but the bloodhounds snappin' at her rear end." -- Birdie [http://margochanning.broadwayworld.com/] "The Devil Be Hittin' Me" -- Whitney
Updated On: 6/16/06 at 01:34 PM
nomdeplume
Broadway Legend
joined:6/20/05
Broadway Legend
joined:
6/20/05
It's only like 128 pages in a little Shakespeare volume I have. I think it ran about two hours plus a 15 minute intermission.

As I mentioned, the pacing was brisk.
Madame X Profile PhotoMadame X Profile Photo
Madame X
Broadway Legend
joined:7/13/03
Broadway Legend
joined:
7/13/03
It was 2.5 hours on Wed. We might've started about 5 minutes late (I didn't note it for certain), but it ran about 2.5 hours incl the 15 min intermission.

The line lady said that the final rehearsal ran about 2.5 hours and yet a gentleman before the show said it shouldn't run too long since Macbeth is relatively short so I was definitely curious as to the run time. I was definitely ready for bed by the end.
"Some of us have it worse, you know, Dana. Some of us are dating lesbian men. Okay? C'mon."
nomdeplume
Broadway Legend
joined:6/20/05
Broadway Legend
joined:
6/20/05
And no comment on the show itself Madame X?
Garland Grrrl Profile PhotoGarland Grrrl Profile Photo
Garland Grrrl
Broadway Legend
joined:3/30/04
Broadway Legend
joined:
3/30/04
Zowie! I love this play and will see it anyway -- but I have always found the casting and directing for Shakespeare in the Park to be spotty at best. Joan Macintosh and Lynn Cohen are always the little bit of all right in whatever show they're in.
Mind is Mantra.
jennite
Understudy
joined:5/6/05
Understudy
joined:
5/6/05
Owch. Harsh for the first couple of previews, no?

Haven't seen the play myself, but we're keeping up with Macbeth news and reactions on the Jennifer Ehle blog: http://jenniferehle.blogspot.com. There are some photos so people can judge for themselves about costuming etc. No full reviews so far but there is positivity out there. For example, here at BWW: https://www.broadwayworld.com/board/readmessage.cfm?thread=900852#2262858

For what it's worth, JE is indeed classically trained (CSSD, RSC).
Visit the Jennifer Ehle fan blog, currently obsessively tracking The Coast of Utopia news: press, blog and forum reviews, interviews with cast and crew, photos, Tonys buzz, etc.
Madame X Profile PhotoMadame X Profile Photo
Madame X
Broadway Legend
joined:7/13/03
Broadway Legend
joined:
7/13/03
I have a hard time w/ Shakespeare (esp the tragedies) and haven't thought about Macbeth since I read it in HS. So from a complete lay man (take w/ a grain of salt):

* I thought Liev was great. He had great stage presence (naturally) and was really comfortable w/ his dialogue that it made it easy for me to understand what he was saying (no small feat for me, a Shakespeare dummie). I didn't notice any major line fumblings the night I went. None that I remember anyway...he hit the famous lines. He played the tortured soul very convincingly.

* Sadly, I agree w/ you on Jennifer Ehle. Her line readings were so awkward(?)/disjointed(?), that it was difficult for me to follow and get pulled into her story. I thought (could be remembering incorrectly) that Lady Macbeth was a large influence in her husband's actions, but I didn't get that at all. I liked that white gown though.

* The weird sisters needed more rehearsal (or maybe it was the tech problems they were working out that made them sound off). One needs to reign it in a bit...she was OTT.

* Not having refreshed myself of the play/plot before going (I swung by the line on a whim), Lady MacDuff and child (I think that's them) seemed to come out of nowhere and I wasn't quite sure how they fit into the whole scheme of things. I'll google the plot eventually and figure it out.

* I liked the set...pretty cool for a Shakespeare in the Park production. I wondered the whole time if the rubbish on the sides that nondeplume was speaking about obstructed the views of the first few rows. It was pretty high. I guess it does. I guess it's the year for unnecessary obstructed views.

Also, totally agree that it should start at 8pm. I thought the time moved to 8:30, not b/c of the spookiness effect of the dark, but literally b/c they were going to have some sort of lighting effect or something that required darkness. Nope...none of it. Move it to 8pm. Especially if you're running at 2.5 hrs.

BTW, who are these parents who think bringing their infant children (and I know they were infants b/c they were crying) to SitP is a good idea? There were multiple babies there. Crying. Parents tended to them quickly, but still.
"Some of us have it worse, you know, Dana. Some of us are dating lesbian men. Okay? C'mon."
nomdeplume
Broadway Legend
joined:6/20/05
Broadway Legend
joined:
6/20/05
I was in the front rubbish row, and lemme tell ya, not only does it obstruct the view, but the cast entirely ignores and is kept distant from this section of the audience and never plays it. Not a glance.

Well, Jennite, I only saw one little bit of positivity in that BWW thread, from melissa errico fan. and that was the thread that clued me in to hop over to the Park late in the day to land a ticket.

There was a special effect that I liked in the show which my dismay over the acting by the two Lady "M"s perhaps caused me to forget. The cauldron (more like an opening well) scene, where three spirits partially arise to be each channeled by a Weird Sister as a medium, was a nice piece of stagework.
Updated On: 6/16/06 at 03:38 PM
Gothampc
Broadway Legend
joined:5/20/03
Broadway Legend
joined:
5/20/03
Does the set obstruct the view of Belvedere Castle?
If anyone ever tells you that you put too much Parmesan cheese on your pasta, stop talking to them. You don't need that kind of negativity in your life.
nomdeplume
Broadway Legend
joined:6/20/05
Broadway Legend
joined:
6/20/05
I could not see Belvedere Castle from my seat, or if it was lit up. Probably the higher seats can still view it.

There is a backwash of trees that has grown up behind the set which I am sure obscures its view from some of the seats.

I was at the lookout just below the castle earlier in daytime and I could not see anything of the stage from there, though you used to have a pretty clear view of it some years ago, and perhaps in winter you still do now.
Gothampc
Broadway Legend
joined:5/20/03
Broadway Legend
joined:
5/20/03
"I could not see Belvedere Castle from my seat, or if it was lit up."

Macbeth is a play that could symbolically benefit from a castle sitting on a hill and the production doesn't even make use of it.
If anyone ever tells you that you put too much Parmesan cheese on your pasta, stop talking to them. You don't need that kind of negativity in your life.
Updated On: 6/16/06 at 04:38 PM
nomdeplume
Broadway Legend
joined:6/20/05
Broadway Legend
joined:
6/20/05
The couple sitting to my left departed at intermission.

The couple on my right scooted out at the end, not wanting to wait for bows. I overheard the woman comment that the standing mic scene reminded her of Il Duce (Benito Mussolini) and it reminded me of period film of Hitler's torchlight speech diatribes. She and her husband sniped had I ever heard of Macbeth being played as a comedy before, and she thought Ehle was doing a poor imitation of Meryl Streep.

Certain places of attempts at comedy, or at best, the points in the play, such as the Duncan at the table ghost scene, where the audience is laughing, are misguided.

You have to be able to empathize with Macbeth and Lady M to feel the tragedy in the play. Two wouldbe noble individuals undone by ambition which overrides their restraint from commiting the sin of murder. The pitiful ebb and scratchings of their consciences, their souls' guilt and what is left of the good in them and their crumbling nobility making them unable to live at peace following their acts.
Updated On: 6/16/06 at 05:11 PM
Madame X Profile PhotoMadame X Profile Photo
Madame X
Broadway Legend
joined:7/13/03
Broadway Legend
joined:
7/13/03
I remember seeing it illuminated so I'm assuming I saw it from my row S seat. Not sure where else I would see it from otherwise (it wasn't something I thought to note). Looking at it meant I wasn't looking at the stage though since it's so elevated.
"Some of us have it worse, you know, Dana. Some of us are dating lesbian men. Okay? C'mon."
Michael Bennett Profile PhotoMichael Bennett Profile Photo
Michael Bennett
Broadway Legend
joined:3/16/05
Broadway Legend
joined:
3/16/05
Really surprised to hear about Ehle's poor performance, though she has classical training so I wonder if some of what she is doing is part of the director's concept for the show.

And she DOES look an enormous amount like a young Meryl Streep. In POSSESSION she looks frighteningly like Streep in FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN
nomdeplume
Broadway Legend
joined:6/20/05
Broadway Legend
joined:
6/20/05
I see that she has performed one role in a Shakespeare play at the RSC but also I see that she got a Tony for The Real Thing in 1990.

So if she has the chops, I think she needs to do a rapid reevaluation of her vocal and her psychological approach to the role. If she reads this and gets pissed off, maybe it'll give her the impetus to develop her role.

I've seen horrible dress rehearsals become wonderful opening nights, so anything's possible.
jaesdare Profile Photojaesdare Profile Photo
jaesdare
Broadway Star
joined:9/29/05
Broadway Star
joined:
9/29/05
I, also, was not particularly fond of Jennifer Ehle's performance, it seemed contrived and "look at me I'm acting Shakespeare". Florencia Lozano, was just a mess. The weird sisters were stupendous, I did like their costumes- thought they lent themselves well to the overall feel of the play.
I thought the way they utilized the stage was very good, especially the end with the "battle" scene.
Broadway Star
joined:12/31/69
Broadway Star
joined:
12/31/69
This brings back memories of the only time I've seen Macbeth onstage. It was the Royal Shakespeare Company and starred Paul Rogers and Coral Browne. The afternoon I went the theatre was packed with NYC highschool students , some of whom proceeded to throw things at the stage several times during the performance. The actors took no ote of it so I don't supposed throwing things at the stage at the Delcorte would help this new production either re: Can This Macbeth Be Saved?  (MEGASPOILERS)

1
Page: 1