Wednesday, July 05, 2006

More Macbeth video and reviews

Check out WCBS-TV's video from Macbeth. It has a little less yak than the NY1 so that we get to hear a bit of the "all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand" speech (and an impressive yowl). The review is a little lukewarm though. In contrast, Hilton Als of the New Yorker finds freshness in the gender-bending theme and depiction of the Macbeths as a "fractured political family".

In Ehle, [Kaufman] has a willing collaborator. At the start of the play, Lady Macbeth receives a letter that her husband, a legendarily fierce Scottish general, has sent from the front, where he has helped save Scotland from a hostile takeover by the King of Norway. Macbeth tells her of the Weird Sisters’ prophecy that he will one day be king. As she reads, Lady Macbeth finds herself dreaming of the blood yet to be spilled—of the rivers that will flow if only she can guide Macbeth to power. The blood that will stain her husband’s hands is less offensive to her than her own menstrual blood—the symbol of her femininity. “Unsex me here, / And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full / Of direst cruelty!” she says. “Make thick my blood; / Stop up th’access and passage to remorse, / That no compunctious visitings of nature / Shake my fell purpose.”

While delivering this speech, Ehle runs her fingers lightly up and down her midsection, in order to make it clear to us that she is speaking of Lady Macbeth’s womb. This graphic, almost cartoonish gesture passes in a flash. And yet it manages to stick in the viewer’s mind, if only because of its awkward charm: Ehle’s interpretation of the role stresses not Lady Macbeth’s cold focus but her odd vulnerability. Dressed like a nineteen-fifties sitcom mom—her skirts are big and full, her blond curls clean and tight—Ehle is the very image of sweetness. As Elizabeth Bennet in the 1995 BBC version of “Pride and Prejudice,” and as the star of István Szabó’s underrated 1999 film “Sunshine,” she projected a similar flowerlike tenderness. While Ehle’s Lady Macbeth is a stretch—and an act of defiance against the standard casting of the role—you root for her, if only because Kaufman is rooting for her, too. Rather than downplaying Ehle’s decency and beauty, he folds that honey into Lady Macbeth’s malevolence and bile. Ehle, in the role, becomes the kind of old-fashioned woman who is happy to step back and pass the canapés because she knows she’s got her husband by the balls.

There are sure a lot of bloggers in NY. Bethany is starstruck from opening night, having had the opportunity to meet the whole cast "including the gorgeous and so supremely nice, Jennifer Ehle", while redhotchilli007 squees at meeting fellow Hampshire alumnus Liev Schreiber. A Gawker rep was also at the opening. Pisicutsa spotted Rosemary Harris the night she went and greatly enjoyed the show, as did tiburon512. trueoriginali and Amy liked it too, despite some problems in the queue and with synopsis-glued acquaintances. Trinityvixen likes pre- but not post-breakdown Lady Macbeth.

1 comment:

Kate said...

That was quite a yowl!