Thursday, January 2, 2014

Broadway Theater Review: Macbeth (Lincoln Center)

Ethan Hawke. Photo: T. Charles Erickson
Shakespeare Sleeps No More on Broadway
By Lauren Yarger
Gosh, there's some guy named Will making quite a splash on Broadway this season. We have seen productions of Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, Richard III and that's before a few Off-Broadway offerings in 2013. The latest of the Bard's plays to beat the Broadway boards is Macbeth starring Ethan Hawke.

Don't get me wrong. I am a big Shakespeare fan. I have read and seen a lot of his works and as long as Romeo isn't wearing red sneakers (as in one Yale production....), I am there. When producers feel the need to bring the off-produced plays to Broadway, however, I have to wonder why. What is so special about this particular interpretation that is worth taking up theater space in New York and charging people $135 for a seat -- especially when we have the Public Theater's excellent (and free) Shakespeare in the Park presentations every summer?

Most of the time, the answer to those questions is pretty unsatisfying. Romeo and Juliet starring Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad was a big disappointment (hence you will not be able to find it still playing....). Twelfth Night and Richard III have Mark Rylance as the star and that makes any play worth seeing (get over to the Belasco before, forsooth, they close in mid February). The Old Globe productions, presented by all male casts, as was the custom in Shakespeare's day, even give us a chance to see the actors on stage while they get into costume. Every high school English class should make a field trip. As productions of the plays, however, they aren't the best I have seen.

So now we have another Macbeth at Lincoln Center with Hawke reuniting with Director Jack O'Brien (Coast of Utopia, Henry IV) to play the nobleman who soon finds how hard it is to live with the consequences of choosing evil (even though Broadway had a mostly panned, one-man Macbeth just last season starring Alan Cumming).

Anne-Marie Duff makes her Broadway debut as a compelling Lady Macbeth, fully consumed by greed as she convinces her husband to murder King Duncan (Richard Easton) as well as the wife (Bianca Amato) and children of Macduff (Daniel Sunjata) to secure his place on the throne of Scotland. Brian D'Arcy James lends is a much needed bright spot as Macbeth's friend, Banquo. (If you don't know the rest of the story, maybe it's time to hit the classics -- or just break out the Sparks notes).

This stark Scotland (minimal set design by Scott Pask) is set somewhere in the past (Costume Designer Catherine Zuber outfits the actors in clothes that evoke the past with modern lines) on a black stage etched with pentagrams and other letters and symbols.

For some reason, the three witches are played by men (Malcolm Gets, John Glover and Byron Jennings). Why? Who knows? The trend to have female roles played by men for no apparent reason continues. My voice often seems the lone raised against it. In fact, O'Brien's production is heavy on the males anyway. At the party for Duncan, the attendees are all males....

But the witches (augmented by other swamp-like, demons) are supposed to be women -- at least one has prosthesis breasts in her swamp-like outfit and very deliberately walks around the thrust of the stage so the audience can see them hanging along with chest hair (this brought some laughter the day I attended. So did Banquo's question:  "What are these so wither'd and so wild in their attire, that look not like the inhabitants o' the earth, and yet are on't?")

Why not just use women who actually have breasts? But I digress.... in fairness, Hecate (Francesca Faridany), queen of the witches gets some stage time and floats between being a witch and filling the role of a servant. Though why isn't clear. Perhaps I just got lost in the very neat fog and storm effects (Japhy Weideman, lighting design; Mark Bennett, original music and sound).

Hawke is pretty disappointing, spouting off lines routinely and without much emotion. We're not sure what feisty Lady Macbeth sees in him. Also very disappointing is the Birnam Wood scene (OK, the scene where the trees appear to be moving toward Macbeth's castle, as predicted by the witches, is my favorite in the play and I haven't seen too many convincing depictions). A bunch of guys shaking fake tree branches doesn't do it, even with added projections (Jeff Sugg).

My conclusion after two hours and 45 minutes: "Gee, I wish I could see Hartford Stage's really vibrant production again."

This one boils and toils at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, 150 West 65th St., through Jan. 12.

Christians might also like to know:
-- No content notes, but those demons and the etchings are a bit on the dark side.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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