Three versions of the Scottish play are on stages in New York City right now.
One, a more or less straightforward rendering, is at Classic Stages with Corey Stoll in the lead role and his wife, the actress Nadia Bowers as Lady Macbeth. CSC’s Artistic Director, John Boyle directs and is the scenic designer for the production. Opening night was October 27th. For tickets, go to the CSC website.
Using a quote from the Lady**, The Brick Theater presents a gender fluid version of Macbeth. The play, directed by Maggie Cino, is Unsex Me Here: The Tragedy of Macbeth, opening on November 8th. Moira Stone takes the lead, and Mick O’Brien plays the treacherous Lady.
Roundabout Theatre has a reimagined modern day McBeth presented, at the Laura Pels through December 8th, as Scotland, PA, based on the indie film of the same name. Set in a diner in the eponymous town, “Mac” is having a meltdown seeing hippies while our lady schemes at Duncan’s hamburger joint, girding her loins for a power play. Scotland, PA is a musical version of the Shakespearean tragedy, with book by Michael Mitnick and lyrics aind music by Adam Gwon.
Meanwhile over at Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival the focus is on another of the Bard’s tragedies of power gone amok. DruidShakespeare: Richard III , opens November 9th,from Ireland’s Druid theater company and Tony Award-winning director Garry Hynes, starring Aaron Monaghan.
There is a superstition about one of Shakespear’s bloodiest dramas which bans theater folk from uttering its name. Let’s hope that telling you about the Classic Stage Company’s production of the Scottish play (in previews now, opening the evening of October 27th) will have no dire effects. The play is, of course,Macbeth, and in this production Corey Stoll plays the lead and Nadia Bowers his Lady. Some would say it is really her play, and I am inclined to agree that she has the more delicious evil to deliver.
John Doyle, CSC Artistic Director, directs and is responsible for the scenie design. The cast also features , along with Tony Award nominee Mary Beth Peil, Barzin Akhavan, Raffi Barsoumian, N’Jameh Camara, Erik Lochtefeld, Antonio Michael Woodard, Jade Wu.
Does the fact that Stoll and Bowers are married contribute to the dynamic between Lady Macbeth and her husband? They play the parts of plotters in a plot filled with machinations and double-dealing.
The intrigues that bind its characters are tinged with a touch of the mystical and more than just a soupçon of the rough and tumble. Macbeth is about political ambition, revenge, and madness.
Macbeth is a personal favorite from the Bard’s canon, just behind King Lear, which I consider his best.
Sure, Broadway can do it bigger and splashier. It’s Off-Broadway, and its sister wife, off-off, that can take the bigger risks.
This means that, often enough, it is the offs’ productions that are the more interesting and provocative.
This is not to say that we don’t appreciate the tone and tenor of a big show, but we are inspired by what is accomplished by the off-the-main-stem houses. Sometimes, like the Tony-favored Hadestown, there is novelty and innovation, along with a touch of provocation, on the Broadway stage as well.
Some of these are the usual suspects– Playwrights Horizons, Second Stage, The Mint, Classic Stage Company, New York Theatre Workshop, to name a few– who come up with exciting theater year in and year out.
Not all of these are “small” productions, of course. For instance at CSC, the artistic director, John Doyle, has slated big names Corey Stoll and Nadia Bowers to play the lead and his lady in the Scottish play. Shakespeare’s Macbeth will run this fall from October 10 through December 15. The season at the Classic will continue with two new iterations of iconic tales of horror presented in repertory in January-March 2020: Dracula by Kate Hamill, adapted from the novel by Bram Stoker, and Frankenstein, based on Mary Shelley’s original work, and adapted by Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm. In April-June 2020, it concludes with Assassins, which completes the trilogy of Stephen Sondheim/John Weidman musicals John Doyle has staged,
Playwrights Horizons opens its main stage fall season with a play about our political dystopias. Will Arbery’s Heroes of the Fourth Turning, directed by Danya Taymor, gets its world premiere beginning September 13. Mr. Arbery is the playwright in residence for 2019-20 at PH thanks to a grant from the Tow Foundation. PH does not disappoint.
Later in the year, Lucas Hnath returns to PH with The Thin Place, beginning November 22. Consider this a Thanksgiving present from PH to you! If you are unfamiliar with this particular talent, before we saw Hnath’s The Christians at PH we were too. Then came A Doll’s House Part 2, an exceptionally imaginative reimagining of Ibsen, in which Laurie Metcalf won the 2017 Tony for Best Actress in a Play. Also on the PH bill for the 2019-20 season is a musical, An Unknown Soldier ( book and lyrics by Daniel Goldstein; music and lyrics by Michael Friedman) set to begin on Valentine’s Day. There’s more to it than just what we’ve listed, so please go to phnyc.org for more information, tickets etc etc.
Going off off the beaten path can be very rewarding. The immersive, site specific Unmaking of Toulouse-Lautrecis a kind of boheme rhapsody, and perhaps a throw-back to the Belle Epoque. This interactive production is conceived and directed by Mara Lieberman and devised by members of the Bated Breath Theatre Company . The show continues where it started in May through October 30th at Madame X in Greenwich Village, where you can imbibe cocktails along with the atmosphere of creative decadence.
Still following the path to the off off, we might stop by at The Flea to see The Invention of Tragedy, an exploration of how to tell grief by Mac Wellman. The world premiere is scheduled to run from September 7 through October 14. Or, for a limited engagement at The Tank catch the Spanish language En El Ojo de la Aguaja (In the Eye of the Needle) story of our present dystopias and how we solve them.
David Staller brings the Gingold Theatrical Group production of Shaw’s Caesar & Cleopatrato Theatre Row from September 3 through October 12. History in a Shavian warp gives us a comedy of sex, murder, intrigue. Very timely, doncha think?
Sometimes, we need a little CPR as a theriac for snakebitten times.
The CPR in question here is the Center for Performance Research which is presenting its New Voices in Live Performance programs for 2019. Their announcement appropriately crossed our desk on Earth Day today, April 22nd, so Walking with Water, which centers around environmental issues, questions of racism and justice, and restoring our planet sounds like the balm we need. It is what Aya Lane + Jess Jupiter are curating for June 1 -2. (Re)Patterning Performance is Lauren DiGiulio’s curation on June 7-9.
The shock of our dystopias seems to be wearing us down with diurnal injustices. Artists among us continue to struggle to make sense of it all. And to help us make our way through.
Theater artists in particular are organizing tales for our edification. Their efforts are appreciated, if sometimes fraught.
The Rare Biosphereis a “ripped from the headlines” story about a teenager who comes home to find her parents have been deported. Playwright Chris Cragin-Day intends to give the political a personal face in this timely new work, playing from April 25th through May 19th at Calvary St. George’s.
Despite the fact that we consider ourselves a class-less society, classism is an enduring issue in American life. Classic Stage Company (CSC) is staging an endictment of capitalism’s greatest flaw, inequality, The Cradle Will Rock written in 1937 and originally produced by Orson Welles. Marc Blizstein’s play in music was shut down by federal authoriites who feared its pro-labor stance just prior to opening night . CSC’s Artistic Director, John Doyle is at the helm of this 10-person production.
The internet has no real precursor in our lives. #yourmemorial by Emily Daly reacts to issues that only arise from what we so laughably call social media. This world premiere is produced by Pigeonholed from May 9th through 26th.
A series of PRIDE events at the Educational Alliance in association with the 14th Street Y celebrate diversity asLive Free, Love Fierce from May 31 through July 1.
Victoria Clark is in the current parlance a multi-hyphenate talent; she is a recipient of the coveted Tony Award for her work on the Broadway stage. Her current gig as director of the excellent Conor McPherson adaptation of Strindberg’s Dance of Deathadds lustre to a lustrous resume.
If you have had the privilege of seeing the play at Classic Stage Company (through March 10th), you will definitely want to hear the actress, singer, teacher and director in conversation with John Doyle on March 5th at 7 o’clock.
Doyle is CSC’s Artistic Director, and a Tony winning director himself. He is presenting the second installment of the Classic Conversation series, for March 5th featuring Clark.
Ted Sperling, who received a Tony when he worked with Clark on Light in the Piazza, will join to accompany Clark on the piano for the musical portion of the evening.
Sometimes it’s the setting, the social fabric of a place, that reflects the context of a work. August Strindberg set his plays in his native Sweden; these settings are often remote and austere; Strindberg’s characters are motivated by a psychology both familiar and alienating, sometimes even chilling.
Women scared Strindberg, it would seem. By today’s standards, his psychological viewpoint is positively regressive. His Julie is neurotic and a hysteric. Her wildness drove her fiancé away.
Yaël Farber roughly covers the same plot points. Her titular Mies Julie (Elise Kibler) is a wild child, distraught and adrift since her intended left her. She turns to John (James Udom), a servant in her father’s house for the strength she needs to exorcise her demons. Their love is fierce and cruel, and motivated by a dynamic different, but not alien to Strindberg’s.
Farber has placed Strindberg’s Miss Julie in a new context by setting her adaptation in the veldt. South Africa and its racial divide make a poignant if stereotyped backdrop for Farber’s Mies Julie.
The story is sensationalized, with lurid brutality and explicit sex. To be honest, I do not recall the Strindberg original well enough to judge, but there is nothing subtle in this heavy handed adaptation.
As I do recall, in the Strindberg version, Christine represented another betrayal; she was Jean’s girlfriend whom he abandoned for Julie. Here, Christine (Patrice Johnson Chevannes) is John’s mother who raised Mies Julie. Farber, and her director, Shariffa Ali, have also added an element of the supernatural in the figure of Ukhokho (Vinie Burrows), an ancestor whom only Christine sees.
Mies Julie, directed by Shariffa Ali plays in repertory with Conor McPherson’s adaptation of Strindberg’s Dance of Death, directed by Victoria Clark at Classic Stage Company through March 10th.
Love may be the antidote to death, or it may be its side dish.
For Edgar (Richard Topol) and Alice (Cassie Beck) in Conor McPherson’s adaptation of Strindberg’s Dance of Death, directed by Victoria Clark, it is the cruellest of emotions.
The couple, on the verge of their 25th anniversary, have never stopped torturing each other.
Alice invites her hapless, if not so innocent, cousin Kurt (Christopher Innvar) to visit in their remote island home. He is readily drawn into their lies and deceptions, deceits and insinuatons.
Watching Alice and Edgar in their exquisite mutual torment is like the proverbial trainwreck: you are horrified yet cannot look away.
The acting of all three principles is so seamless that the escalations of the hurt are palpable, subtly-defined and well-choreographed. We are enthralled by the fiendish wiles and messy tangle in Edgar and Alice’s marriage, and riveted by Kurt’s engagement with them. Victoria Clark directs with a deft, light hand that allows us to see under the surface.
Strindberg is seldom on stage. If you have not seen him, let Conor McPherson introduce you to him. Dance of Death is a must-see production.
Conor McPherson’s adaptation of Strindberg’s Dance of Death, durected by Victoria Clark, plays in repertory with Yael Farber’s Mies Julie, directed by Shariffa Ali at Classic Stage Company through March 10th.