Saturday, March 8, 2008

Mac-wha?

As soon as I heard that Patrick Stewart was going to be doing Macbeth at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, I formed a posse and got tickets. I knew it would be a spectacular show. Back in 1997, I went with some friends all the way to
Washington, DC to see him do Othello, which was so worth the trip. And as I've mentioned before, I saw him do his one-man version of A Christmas Carol live and listen to the CD of that show every year around the holidays.

The man is an Actor with a capital A for awesome.

So Macbeth. I'm fairly certain that the run was sold out before it opened, let alone when it got great reviews. It was an amazing experience to be there, fabulous show, so glad we went.

However.

I was in Macbeth on college (Witch #3 thank you very much) and studied the play in college as well. I know the play well enough to catch when someone gets a line wrong (it's "from the nave to the chops" not "chaps". Honestly, people). I know all about the alleged curse (some actors insist on calling it "the Scottish Play" because of all the bad luck involved with the show over the years--people connected to the production dying, that sort of thing. The explanation I've heard is that the play is cursed because Shakespeare used a real, actual witch's spell for the double, double, toil and trouble bit. Considering that one of the ingredients is finger of birth-strangled babe, ditch-delivered by a drab (translation: finger of stillborn baby of a prostitute delivered in a ditch), I think that some of the ingredients are just too damn hard to get a hold of to be part of a real spell. I'm sure such an item would have a powerful magical effect, but why would you paint yourself into a corner by coming up with a spell that requires difficult to obtain items when there are plenty of lizard legs to be had.

Anywho, in this production, they did the whole spell as a rap. Yes, the weird sisters rapped. The dialogue was unintelligible, even for someone (like me) who knows all the lines. I wouldn't be surprised if they'd decided to avoid the curse by changing the words of the spell and then having the actresses rap it so quickly that no one could tell.

When this scene was going on, I made a mental note to discuss with my friends after the show. But it was later pushed aside by the last scene. I'd been very curious to see how they were going to handle it. You see, Shakespeare has written himself into a corner here. He has MacDuff say something along the lines of, "Here's Macbeth's head". Many productions have MacD throw Macbeth's whole body onto the stage and point at his head. That's what I expected here, because the alternative is just undignified.

The alternative is exactly where we went when I did it at Fordham. My friend Louis, did the props and he took a mannequin head, and using clay and other materials, fashioned a reasonable facsimile of the actor's head. From the back of the theater, it looked convincing enough. The actor's mom loved it and took it home with her after the last show.

However.

Every night, when Macduff pulled out this thing, the audience snickered. They giggled. A dramatic scene marred by a silly prop.

So you can understand that I was expecting them not to go there. Big hit in the London before coming here, loads of fancy British actors, genius director. One would expect a soupcon of discretion.

Nope. Big honking model of Patrick Stewart's head covered in fake blood/red paint. And I do mean covered. The whole thing was red. Picture that, if you will, and join with me in feeling sorry for the actors that had to deliver their big lines while holding the stupid thing.

Make it not so.

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