As Shakespeare's shortest tragedy, it's quite a feat to make Macbeth boring. But add the anachronistic setting of a fascist environment (yes, we're in a time of war, but the symbolism is rather heavy-handed) plus the annoying and utterly irrelevant use of film clips of goose-stepping soldiers flashing around the set, and you're half way there. Patrick Stewart was undoubtedly brilliant – he is, it seems, in everything – but even he can't carry the entire production. I remembered we had seen him in The Caretaker with Kyle MacLachlan, and he was amazing. Kate Fleetwood as Lady Macbeth is alternately resplendent and cowering, and strangely hung her head and seemed like she wanted to disappear into the ground at the ovation. The set is rather good – a strange, stark medical room that becomes the context for the three witches as bizarre nurses, whose costumes transform fluidly from nurse to nun to waitress. The barrenness of this set (although marred by the superfluous projected imagery) has only an industrial china sink and a huge, clanking freight elevator, that serve to provide a dark, subterranean feeling and to evoke a chill in your imagination from its very dankness. The set moves easily from being a basement, an experimental operating room to the icy kitchen where Lady Macbeth tries to rid of herself of the ever-lasting blood on her hands. Still, the laziness of the encroaching Birnam Wood in movie form, and the denigration of the witches' chanting to rap, left us unsatisfied, and dare I say it, a little annoyed.
Macbeth is at the Lyceum Theater on West 45th St. until May 23rd. Photograph from nytimes.com