Wednesday, March 3, 2010

All Hail, Macbeth!

Here is another entry in the commonplace post category. It's a review of Macbeth, starring Patrick Stewart and performed in early 2008 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

It was written by John Lahr and published in the March 3, 2008 issue of The New Yorker:

At a thrilling first stroke,with the clatter and cries of a wounded soldier being wheeled in on a stretcher, the plays bursts the somnolence of a dingy field ward -- linoleum, white tiles, an iron-gated upstage elevator, a washbasin whose spigots will in time run red with blood. We are thrust into the heart-stopping hurly-burley that Shakespeare's prologue merely prophesies. The walls flicker with projections of a flatlining soldier's electrocardiogram printout.; The Nursing Sisters hover. With sanitary face masks over their mouths and noses and starched wimples on their heads, which make them look like bustling predatory birds -- one of them even holds a hacksaw -- they swoop around the traumatized soldier as he babbles news of battle and Macbeth's military bravery.

The audience is shocked to discover that the Nursing sisters are Shakespeare's witchy Weird Sisters, who greet Macbeth in the ward with a prophecy of his rise to power, and who are all the more terrifying because they successfully masquerade as part of the ordinary world. "All hail, Macbeth!" they incant three times promoting him in each preduction from "Thane of Glamis" to "Thane of Cawdor" and, finally, "That shalt be King hereafter." The words stop Macbeth in his tracks. "Good Sir, why do you start, and seem to fear Things that do sound so Fair?" his cohort Banquo asks. In the witches' "imperial theme," Macbeth instantly recognizes his own murderous subterannean ambition: His selfdestructive course is set. Traditionally, the Weird Sisters are stages as the Fats, and their scenes verge on Halloween voodoo. Goold (Rupert Goold, who directed the production) stages the Sisters are their psychologically astute author intuited them to be -- as incarnations of Macbeth's unconscious. In theis production, the sisters, spectres of the subversive, are rewoved into the entired fabric of Macbeth's saga; they ratch up the atmosphere of menace, shadowing action with the unsaid and the uncontrolled.

John Lahr is, by the way, the son of Bert Lahr.

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