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Off-Broadway Review: “Macbeth” at the Lynn F. Angelson Theater at Classic Stage Company (Through Sunday December 15, 2019)

Off-Broadway Review: “Macbeth” at the Lynn F. Angelson Theater at Classic Stage Company (Through Sunday December 15, 2019)
By William Shakespeare
Directed by John Doyle
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

There has always been a curiosity and appreciation for bold attempts at new interpretations or the reimagining of the classics and it seems there have been endless attempts on putting a new spin on more than one of these masterworks. There appears to be one more paradigm of this artistic endeavor in the Classic Stage Company’s new production of “Macbeth” designed and directed by Artistic Director John Doyle. The aesthetic branding of mounting a production on a bare stage with a scarcity of props, which has almost become Mr. Doyle’s trademark, was developed to focus more on the text and less on visual distractions. This is a brilliant concept but becomes very dangerous when a director starts to fiddle with the content, creating confusion with partial gender bending, actors playing multiple roles, and dialogue reassignment. Unfortunately, these examples are the confounded decisions that plague this current production.

This current reincarnation may come easy for those who are ever so familiar with the script, but for students, Shakespeare novices and newcomers to the classics it could be baffling. From the opening line scripted to be delivered by one of three witches, “When shall we three meet again,” in this production it is delivered by everyone in the cast except Macbeth, with all the witches’ scenes conveyed in this manner. The following scene introduces Duncan played by a female, with the same actor portraying an old woman throughout the play after Duncan’s death. The remainder of the production follows this precedent making it difficult for a novice to comprehend the plot. Ann Hould-Ward adds to the confusion, designing the unisex costumes worn by the entire cast which consists of various shades of grey fabric draped in different configurations, depending on the character and scene. The results are drab and uninspiring. No argument that the text is strong and can stand alone but when sabotaged by the extenuating circumstances, it becomes weak and ineffective.

The cast is packed with talented actors who fail to overcome the situation and hit their stride. At times some cast members drop the rhythm of Shakespeare’s blank verse making the dialogue lose its natural cadence, feeling strained. Movement is stilted and rigid except for combative scenes which are natural and effective, credited to fight director Thomas Schall. There are some audacious choices that could be credited to the director or the actor that prove worthwhile punctuating nefarious deeds and the consequences but appear blatant when incorporated into the lackluster backdrop. “Less is more,” could possibly be the mantra of Mr. Doyle’s recent endeavors but this incarnation of Macbeth is more or less distorted and inconsequential.


The cast of “Macbeth” features Barzin Akhavan, Raffi Barsoumian, Nadia Bowers, N'Jameh Camara, Erik Lochtefeld, Mary Beth Peil, Corey Stoll, Antonio Michael Woodard, and Jade Wu.

The creative team for “Macbeth” includes John Doyle (Production Scenic Design), Ann Hould-Ward (Costume Design), Solomon Weisbard (Lighting Design), Matt Stine (Sound Design), Telsey + Company (Casting), Bernita Robinson (Production Stage Manager), and Stephanie Macchia (Assistant Stage Manager).

“Macbeth” runs at the Lynn F. Angelson Theater at Classic Stage Company (136 East 13th Street, New York) through Sunday December 15, 2019 on the following performance schedule: Tuesdays - Thursdays at 7:00 p.m.; Fridays at 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets for “Macbeth” are $75 October 10-26 and $80 October 28-December. $125 prime seats are available at all performances. Tickets and membership packages can be purchased at or 212.352.3101 (or toll free 866.811.4111). Running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes, without intermission.

Photo: Nadia Bowers as Lady Macbeth in Classic Stage Company’s “Macbeth.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Monday, November 11, 2019