Director Terry Hands has taken an unexpected approach to this production of Macbeth, which opened last night at the Music Box Theatre. Macbeth is one of Shakespeare's bloodiest plays, in every sense of the word, full of grand, all-consuming emotions, begging to be played with a lusty swagger and a snarl. Here we are given a cold, distanced, intellectual production that dispenses with overt theatricality in favor of a brutal and unforgiving look at a mind ravaged by ambition and guilt.
As Macbeth, Kelsey Grammar gives a curiously contemporary performance, simple and straightforward, successfully bringing the themes of the play to the forefront and making the character easily accessible to a young audience. Mr. Grammer's great strength as an actor, particularly notable in a live performance, is an ability to let the audience "see" his thoughts, let them in on what his character is thinking at any given moment. With Macbeth, the actor and the role fuse in perfect and telling harmony, and his performance, while dark and at times slightly mannered, is the overriding pleasure of the evening.
Terry Hands has taken note of Grammer's performance style and has assembled a worthy cast around it. The prevailing tone is one of restraint and underplaying, and the supporting actors, led by the calculating Lady Macbeth of Diane Venora give this production a rare and rewarding unity, focus, and strength. Pointing out individual performers in such a well integrated cast seems almost unfair, but pay particular attention to Venora, Kate Forbes' Lady Macduff, and Peter Michael Goetz's Duncan. And, Peter Gerety's Porter is a pure delight.
Timothy O'Brien's black and white costumes and all black set - strangely reminiscent of the inn courts in which the play might have been acted four hundred years ago - and the pure white lighting of Terry Hands (doing double duty as both director and lighting designer) give this production a wonderfully malevolent film noir quality.
This is not some mundane, summertime "Shakespeare in the park" evening at the theatre. This Macbeth is a complicated but understandable, intellectually rewarding dramatic experience, which sets a high standard for this new Broadway season.
Macbeth by William Shakespeare. Directed by Terry Hands. Set and Costume design by Timothy O'Brien. Lighting design by Terry Hands. Sound design by Tom Morse. Original Music by Colin Towns. Special Effects design by Gregory Meeh. Fight Direction by B. H. Barry. Starring Kelsey Grammar. With Diane Venora and Michael Gross, Stephen Markle, Kate Forbes, Peter Gerety, Peter Michael Goetz, Bruce A. Young.
Theatre: The Music Box Theatre, 239 West 45th Street (between Broadway and 8th Avenue)
Running time: 2 hours, with no intermission. Please Note: Latecomers are not seated until 20 minutes into the performance.
Schedule: Tuesday through Saturday at 8 PM, Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM, Sunday at 3 PM. Please Note: This is a limited engagement through July 30.
Audience: May be inappropriate for children 5 and under. Children under 4 are not permitted in the theatre.
Ticket prices: $70, $55, $20
Standing Room: Standing room is available at the Box Office ($20), only when the performance is completely sold out.
Tickets online: TeleCharge
Tickets by phone: TeleCharge at (212) 239-6255, or outside the New York metro area (800) 545-2559, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Tickets in person: Box Office hours Monday through Saturday 10 AM to 8 PM, Sunday Noon to 6 PM
Tickets by E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tickets by Snail mail: Macbeth, PO Box 998, Times Square Station, New York, NY 10108-0998