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.
Finally, Shakespeare is playing with the big boys. As a businessman, he probably would have welcomed all the attention he still gets. As an artist, he might have been fascinated by the “strange new world” in which theater can be turned into a CGI experience.
There is a burgeoning technology, called weARlive, developed by Technodramatists, a new company that combines technological innovations with drama.
It uses something described as a “face-sync application” and is being premiered by their Technodramatists Performance Laboratory ; weARlive allows one actor to take on many roles through animated creations motion-captured in real time.
Their first production using weARlive is Error: A Comedy Of, in which actress Claire Tyers is the live action model for the avatars of all the characters in the play, based on the Bard’s original.
Note that the emphasis here is not on the technical but on the artistry. Artfully intelligent applications of the new are a tradition in the theater, but the new today is much more surprising than it was in, say ancient Greece when cranes were introduced as the “Deus Ex Machina.”
Be prepared to be astounded and awed at TheaterLab where the latest in technological artistry will be presented by Technodramatists beginning June 6th through June 22nd .
Shakespeare speaks to so many of us on so many levels.
It’s not just that he is required reading in our high schools. Nor is it because the stories he re-animated were already timeless and embedded in human consciousness, and then passed down in our experience of the world.
And it probably is not because his playfulness lends his plays so readily to translate into song. The musical theater is rife with musicals,– Kiss Me Kate, Westside Story, Two Gentlemen of Veronaare just a few–, that sprung from the Bard’s tales.
There are Shakespeare bar crawls, a populist version of the classic style of presentation when the audience famously ate and drank and talked during the performance. Free Shakespeare in the Parks (courtesy of the Public Theatre) and numerous iterations of the Shakespearean playbook. One of these is the current crossed-gender King Lear with the great Glenda Jackson in the title role.
Celebrating Memorial Day with some of Shakespeare’s soldiers in snippets from his plays, New York Shakespeare Exchange‘s Freestyle Lab presents Armor As Strong: Trans Warriors through a Shakespearean Lens, on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 from 7-9pm (doors open to audience at 6:30pm) at the 53rd Street Library Theater. (This event is free. ) The production features a group of actors from New York’s trans/gender non-conforming community performing speeches and short scenes featuring some of Shakespeare’s best known soldiers.
Inspiring new plays is another way for an old fellow like the Bard to stay current. John Minigan has written a sort of play within a play–and a love story– called Breaking the Shakespeare Code, playing for a two week-run, May 23 – June 2, at The Black Box at 440 Studios. After sold-out runs in Chicago and the New York International Fringe Festival, Breaking the Shakespeare Code returns directed by Stephen Brotebeck and starring the original cast Miranda Jonte and Tim Weinert .
“The past is prologue….” It’s a saying that suggests we learn from what has transpired before. At the theater, we certainly try hard to look at history and see where it has gotten us, how we approached our problems, what solutions were on offer. Great thinkers–and dramatists are definitely philosophers in action– have made their suggestions clear.
Shakespeare confronted every manner of political upheaval as well as all the dystopias of the soul. We regularly worship at his altar. This year, The Public Theater puts on a summer in the park season with his Othello and Twelfth Night.
George Bernard Shaw looked at askew the world from a totally original perspective. The Gingold Theatrical Group celebrates his musings in their regular Project Shaw series at Symphony Space and with Shaw Club meetings on Mondays. Manhattan Theater Company and the Roundabout folks have tackled Shaw over the years with productions of Major Barbara and, currently on stage at MTC’s Friedman, Saint Joan.
The roiling and effervescent stories told by James Joyce in Finnegan’s Wake are part of the annual Bloomsday readings, here in New York with one at Bloom’s Tavern and the other at the above mentioned Symphony Space. The Bloom’s Tavern event is coordinated through Origin Theatre Company and includes both celebrities and an Irish breakfast. To be more exacting, it also features a of the Joyce period costume contest.
This is not what might be described as a utopian moment in history. The arts, including theater, of course, have found the need to protest the political climate. Sometimes, their response has been by providing us with dystopian visions of a world gone awry. 1984, for example, is one such production. The recently closed revival of Fucking A by Suzan-Lori Parks is another.
Arden/Everywhere, at the Baruch Performing Arts Center from October 8th to 28th, based on Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It, takes aim at the dangers that face a democracy. Jessica Baumann and her creative team see their work as a “reframing” of the original text. Their story purports to be about exile and banishment and does not want to center on the romance in this pastoral comedy.
In fact, the text for Arden/Everywhere is Shakespeare’s, embellished by references to immigrants and the plight of refugees. To that end, in its opening sequence, every greeting is a parting, and every hug and handshake bodes a separation.
The likeable cast present Shakespeare’s words with great authority and make the plot both clear and easy to follow. The principals, Rosalind (a very charming Helen Cespedes), Orlando (Anthony Cason, Jr.), Oliver (Kambi Gathesha) and Celia (Liba Vayneberg) are outstanding.
In honor of their 20th anniversary, Dzieci Theatre will reinstate its Gypsy-infused production of Macbeth, MAKBETfor a 5-Week run starting on September 6 at Bushwick’s Sure We Can. Our guest reviewer, Mari S. Gold had a chance to see it in October 2015.