Thursday, June 29, 2006

"Brangelina Gone Bad!"

The New York Times review is out, written by Charles Isherwood. The Brangelina reference can be read in the full text.

The meticulous craft of their performances comes, therefore, as no surprise. Mr. Schreiber and Ms. Ehle speak Shakespeare's verse with a natural grace and clarity, a seduction to match their looks. (Ms. Ehle is seriously ravishing in her chic dresses by Michael Krass.) Drawn into an intimate relationship with their characters by means visually glamorous and aurally alluring, we should shudder all the more at the contrast between good looks and bad acts, verifying the doomed King Duncan's observation, "There's no art to find the mind's construction in the face." The problem is that in Mois├ęs Kaufman's elegantly wrought production set in the tumultuous early 20th century, the Macbeths' murderous rampage unfolds at an oddly stately pace. Blood flows regularly, but as if dispensed from silver taps. In the end neither Mr. Schreiber nor Ms. Ehle seems fully to inhabit the darkness of their characters, despite — or maybe because of — the fastidiousness of their interpretations.

A dense thoughtfulness has always been a hallmark of Mr. Schreiber's Shakespearean turns, and it is here matched by Ms. Ehle's nuanced delineation of Lady Macbeth's gradual disintegration. But together and separately they remain cool customers in a play that demands something closer to ferocious heat. The play's dark vision should colonize our imaginations with terrifying images of the havoc wrought when man's baser nature unleashes its darkness, making unnatural all that it touches. Spooky sound effects notwithstanding, this production never really gets under your skin.
Lackluster performances in most of the supporting roles compound the problem. Varying from competent (Mr. Foster's Duncan and doctor) to bland (the Banquo of Teagle F. Bougere) to strident (Florencia Lozano's Lady Macduff), the actors rarely command attention, leaving Mr. Schreiber and Ms. Ehle to provide virtually all of the dramatic firepower.

That they don't quite deliver enough has less to do with their talents than with matching actors to roles. Mr. Schreiber and Ms. Ehle offer finely detailed portraits of complex people breaking apart as their murderous acts reverberate in their minds and in the world around them. But at no point do these fine artists seem possessed by their slightly supernatural characters. We leave impressed by the dedication of actors to their craft, not hollowed out by a hair-raising encounter with two of Shakespeare's darkest and most disturbing creations.

Click to see the large version of this photo by Sara Krulwich. There's also a photo of Liev Schreiber you might want to see, ladies.

Hold on, the NY Sun also has a review by kill- Joy Goodwin.

Far less ominous is Jennifer Ehle's unprepossessing Lady Macbeth. With her porcelain complexion and golden curls, Ms. Ehle looks uncannily like a young Meryl Streep. When she first appears, in a World War I-era bright pink gown, it's hard to imagine that venom could be lurking beneath those rosy cheeks. (She couldn't be further from Judi Dench's iconic Lady Macbeth, she of the dark head scarf and shift.)

Playing against all that pink might have proven an interesting choice, but Ms. Ehle seems to have trouble building steam.Lady Macbeth is expected to work some angle on her husband - to seduce him, to ridicule him, to question his manhood. But there's no clear intention here. Ms. Ehle's performance gives no strong of Lady Macbeth's conflicted interior life; just a sort of basic mercenary instinct. Without some sort of duality to work with, the sleepwalking scene - usually the piece de resistance - makes no sense.

Opposite Ms. Ehle, Mr. Schreiber finds himself in the awkward position of a man trying to start a fire with steel and no flint.The play's intimate domestic world - which ought to be so full of frisson and danger - is flat in this "Macbeth." Only when the world of men and deeds comes into the domestic world - at the ill-fated banquet - do husband and wife snap to life.As the drunk Macbeth leaps onto the table, knocking off glasses, dazed by visions of the ghost of Banquo (the dear friend he's just had murdered), Lady Macbeth defends them both with uncharacteristic vigor.

1 comment:

Kerry said...

I just had to comment when I read these reviews and just as I have long suspected critics have their heads up their you know whats. Do these people forget what the word Public means? The theater is trying to make Shakspeare current and accessible for the average Joe/Jane - who, since I am one, is not up on their Shakespeare... let alone their politics. Beyond that the thing I hate most is that people forget about the experience. Sitting in line for hours - maybe in the rain - hanging out in the park, anticipating the play. Those are the things that add to the show. I know from sitting there. There is really a sense of unity among everyone sitting there. You are really excited. People who just show up ready to tear it apart piss me off. Maybe if one of these critics bothered to put their ego aside and sit in line with the regular folk they would feel differently. It's an experience not just a show. Who cares if they are covered head to foot in fake blood! You think I noticed the lighting? (Although the dresses are to die for on JE)I never care what people who think "they know" have to say about anything and I hope no one in the show does either. It's clear the cast and crew and trying extremely hard for the audience to enjoy themselves and I think they succeed wonderfully. Everyone near me has always enjoyed it. Trust me - I'm friendly enough to talk to everyone there or at least nosey enough to listen in.

As an aside - what self respecting person references Brangelina? Give me a break. I lose complete respect for a person to even use this term let alone in a review.