Corey Stoll photos by Joan Marcus
By Ron Cohen
director John Doyle, as might be expected, takes a pretty free hand with
Shakespeare’s oft-produced Macbeth to launch the new season at Classic
Stage Company, where he’s artistic director. And he delivers a cogent and
engrossing rendition, bolstered greatly by Corey Stoll in the title role, a
gallant military man who, when he’s caught up in a toxic ambition, murders his
way to the ancient throne of Scotland and then murders more to stay there.
hardly any need at this point in time to elucidate on the ever-relevant resonance
of this work, with its theme of power-bred corruption, but the production also
scores in the compellingly moody, lean and dark theatricality of its
Along with a
busy schedule in film and television, Stoll has found time to take on major
roles on stage at Shakespeare in the Park (most recently, Brutus in Julius
Caesar and Iago in Othello), somewhat gaining him the mantle of a
notable American interpreter of the Bard. His work here should only further
burnish this reputation.
revelatory to hear Macbeth’s well-known speeches (“Tomorrow and tomorrow and
tomorrow”…”Is this a dagger which I see before me?” …”Macbeth does murder
sleep”…) parsed in un-plummy Americanized cadences, as Stoll reveals the
character’s inner life. It’s a broad canvas, from the measured elation he feels
when he first hears the prophecy of his upward climb to the almost crazed, flip
desperation as his situation falls apart, and the final despair.
Nadia Bowers, Corey Stoll
surrounds Stoll’s Macbeth with a tight and talented company of eight other actors.
In the key role of Lady Macbeth, who urges her husband on to bloody deeds,
Nadia Bowers is a magnetic figure. She exudes a contemporary resonance of
female empowerment provocatively laced with a ritualistic call for evil to
embody her as she pushes her husband onto his malevolent course. Stoll and
Bowers also happen to be man and wife in real life, and their work together
vibrates with both an intellectual and a sexual chemistry.
Others in the
company take on multiple roles, morphing from one character to another with little
or no change in look, sometimes only slight adjustments of their voluminous
capes or shawls. Ann Hould-Ward did the great and classic-looking, atmospheric
costumes. And they all seem at one with Doyle’s trademark minimalistic set
design, an open platform of dark roughhewn wood, rising at one end to an
unadorned but still power-radiating throne. It’s all darkly bathed in Solomon
Weisbard’s painterly lighting, a mood further underscored by Matt Stine’s
sometimes eerie sound design, while Thomas Schall’s vigorous fight direction
adds physical vigor.
As with any
Shakespeare production, it wouldn’t hurt to give yourself a little brush-up of
characters and plot before attending, especially helpful here with Doyle’s very
fluid concept and the sometimes-hurried exposition, especially at the start,
that along with editing gets the production done in a fleeting 100 minutes or
so with no intermission.
Mary Beth Peil
How fluid are
things? Broadway veteran Mary Beth Peil starts out as Duncan, the king who is Macbeth’s
first victim, enriched with a sense of dignity and wisdom. But she also joins
others in the cast reciting the incantations and prophecies of the play’s three
witches. She then moves on to portray a variety of folks, sometimes simply
mood-setting and sometimes more specific, like one of those tending to the
sleep-walking Lady Macbeth.
chief characters, Barzin Akhavan plays Macbeth’s final nemesis, Macduff,
heartbreaking and chilling when he learns the fate of his wife and children;
Erik Lochtefeld is a vibrant Banquo, another of Macbeth’s comrade in arms and
then a victim, and Raffi Barsoumian makes a stalwart Malcolm, Duncan’s son.
Camara’s Lady Macduff captures the harrowing nature of the woman‘s death;
Barbara Walsh brings equanimity to Ross, a nobleman who tends to look on things
in a neutral fashion, and finally but hardly least, is Antonio Michael Woodard,
who moves with versatility through a variety of younger folks, such as Duncan’s
son Fleance and the brutally murdered tyke of Macduff.
As for those
three witches, they never appear together as an actual trio, if at all. With
their lines rearranged and given to a group of actors performing very much like
a chorus, you might – to push a contemporary point -- see them as a segment of
the populace ready to support and urge on a corrupt but charismatic leader.
However the device lands, it’s a provocative notion.
Doyle’s most violent revision is to have Macbeth personally – by his own hand,
that is -- murder Lady Macduff and her kids rather than, as Shakespeare
signified, some anonymous “murderers.” It’s a horrific and gut-grabbing scene,
however, illustrating the depths of Macbeth’s depravity and provides a cue for
the entire season of chills being whipped up for CSC. Macbeth will be
followed by versions of Frankenstein and Dracula playing in
repertoire, and the final entry will be Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins.
Sometimes, Halloween never ends.
the Lynn F. Angelson Theater at Classic Stage Company
136 East 13th