Monday, July 03, 2006

Macbeth video, Utopia books

Malcolm Johnson of the Hartford Courant gives descriptive report of Macbeth. In CurtainUp's review Les Gutman admires the leads' elocution but finds their marital passion lacking, and William Wolf doesn't feel it either. But look, there's video! NY1 has a RealPlayer-format review with clips from the play. Roma Torre doesn't get Ms Ehle's interpretation though. Luckily Michael Criscuolo of does:

As for the performances, Liev Schreiber is a blessing as Macbeth. His is not a flashy performance, just a solid, grounded one, in which he reveals a deep understanding of the role. His Macbeth is not ambitious or power-hungry—he's just a good soldier who makes a bad decision (albeit, one that triggers a domino effect from which he cannot extricate himself). Schreiber plays him as a once strong man who breaks himself. Indeed, the Thane of Cawdor shall sleep no more, as Schreiber uses Macbeth's foretold insomnia to escalate his deterioration.

He's the perfect antithesis to Jennifer Ehle's businesslike, social-climbing Lady Macbeth, who urges her husband on to bloodshed. She turns ruthlessly practical after Duncan's murder, dismissing her husband's grief as if he were an overwrought child, while Macbeth starts falling apart immediately. When he is crowned king, Macbeth looks fearful and small, while she, on the other hand, looks radiant and luminous; as if that were the moment she'd been waiting her entire life for. It isn't until her final scene, when she proclaims “What's done now cannot be undone,” that Lady Macbeth realizes the gravity of her actions. It's a moment that Ehle nails perfectly, capping a splendid performance.

I should add that what's best about Schreiber and Ehle is that they don't rush. They take their time with everything—the language, their scenes together, the play's big moments. They invest in them, make sure everything's clear, and make playing Shakespeare look like the easiest thing in the world. Inspiring.

Naysayers will, no doubt, have something snarky to say about this Macbeth (as all Shakespeare snobs usually do). Don't listen to them. Led by Kaufman's commanding direction, and Schreiber—who is one of the great Shakespeareans of our time—this production of Macbeth is Shakespeare for the people, not the critics or scholars. Just as the Bard would have wanted it, I'm sure.

Amen to that. And here are the views of some of those people. April, a friend of a cast member, got to go to the gala and rub shoulders with the beautiful people. Zak and Devon find the show "incredible". Chance1729 more or less concurs with the NYT reviewer and thinks the leads carried the play well. tyger finds parallels between Lady Macbeth and Volumnia in Coriolanus. Aaron Riccio says the play's not to be missed.

Looking ahead to The Coast of Utopia, Google Books has previews of all three plays which you can browse through. Amazon has hardcover and paperback versions of the omnibus, and also sells the plays singly: Voyage, Shipwreck and Salvage. In the acknowledgments Tom Stoppard talks about The Romantic Exiles by E.H. Carr and Russian Thinkers by Isaiah Berlin, which might be worthwhile background reading.

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