BWW Review: NINAGAWA MACBETH at Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival is Lush, Opulent & Masterful

BWW Review: NINAGAWA MACBETH at Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival is Lush, Opulent & Masterful
Masachika Ichimura as Macbeth
and Yuko Tanaka as Lady Macbeth.
Photo by Stephanie Berger.

MACBETH seems to be one of the most abused pieces from Williams Shakespeare's canon; yet, when a production does the show justice, it is incredibly spellbinding. Luckily for fans of the play and art of theatre in general, you'll be hard-pressed to find a more robustly magnificent production of the classic than NINAGAWA MACBETH. In fact, the greatest tragedy to befall MACBETH is that this presentation at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts' 2018 Mostly Mozart Festival is this version's final hurrah. Sadly, the lushly opulent production will be retired after its final bow on Wednesday, July 25, 2018.

Reprising their roles from the 2015 revival of NINAGWA MACBETH, Masachika Ichimura as Macbeth and Yuko Tanaka as Lady Macbeth deliver breathtaking, powerhouse performances. With the aid of Yushi Odashima's faithful, line by line translation of the play into Japanese and the names and locations remaining the same as the original text, both Masachika Ichimura and Yushi Odashima help the audience grasp this production's perfect marriage of Western and Eastern styles. They perform the roles in a way that is reminiscent of traditional Japanese theatrical forms, using the overly dramatic movements and loudly emphasized speaking styles associated with traditional Japanese theater. Yet, nuanced vulnerability in their characters, pristinely delivered asides, and sublimely gorgeous moments of reflection and introspection in monologues highlight the westernized notions of theater presented in the work as well. Helming the production as the leads, both of these skilled and talented performers dexterously ensure that the blending of the Eastern and Western traditions never feels forced, hokey, or problematic.

BWW Review: NINAGAWA MACBETH at Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival is Lush, Opulent & Masterful
Scenic Detail of NINAGAWA MACBETH.
Photo by Stephanie Berger.

There is not a single detail that is overlooked in NINAGAWA MACBETH. For example, the production's subtle opening features two old women opening the doors to the performance space to invite us in as bells toll. These two women watch the play, eat snacks, work on crafts, and most importantly react with viscerally effective emotions to the drama as it unfolds. Between scenes, our eyes are purposely drawn to them, but as scenes unfold they still present something worth glancing at from time to time. Likewise, the lighting and scenic design (especially the grandeur of the cherry tree weeping blossoms) is incredible in its pristine details that masterfully fill the stage, consistently dazzle the eye, and purposefully shape our own emotional responses to the play. Moreover, the costume and wig design perfectly recreates feudal Japan on the stage, transporting the audience to the era with dozens of beautiful pieces that shimmer with vibrant colors and well-placed patters (especially towards the end when both of the Macbeths wear garments that share the same cherry blossom patterns).

Having formally ended Lincoln Center Festival, the multidisciplinary summer series that brought amazing art from all over the world to the Lincoln Center campus, it is encouraging to see that Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts has expanded the scope of their popular Mostly Mozart Festival to bring in pieces like the mind-blowingly stellar NINAGAWA MACBETH that would have previously been presented by Lincoln Center Festival. Large-scale, signature art pieces from the minds of legends like Yukio Ninagawa rely on massive arts centers like Lincoln Center to exist, and no one who sees NINAGAWA MACBETH should fault Jane Moss for opening up the Mostly Mozart Festival to include such a dynamic and ultimately beautiful piece of theatre.

NINAGAWA MACBETH has its final two performances tonight (July 24) at 7:30 pm and tomorrow (July 25) at 7:30 pm. This is definitely a masterpiece that should not be missed if you can avoid it. For tickets and information, please visit

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From This Author David Clarke

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