"Double, double, toil and trouble" may resonate more deeply than audiences expect when attending Lincoln Center Theater's current production of Macbeth. Directed by Jack O'Brien and starring Ethan Hawke as the titular anti-hero, the production features three men playing the Weird Sisters that Macbeth first encounters in the woods.
Byron Jennings, Tony winner John Glover and Malcolm Gets portray the three witches that first introduce Macbeth to the idea of gaining power and becoming king — which inevitably leads to his downfall.
Jennings, who played Duncan in the 2008 Broadway production of the Scottish Play, has also performed in Arcadia, The Merchant of Venice and Inherit the Wind; Glover's stage credits include Death of a Salesman, Tartuffe and The Importance of Being Earnest; and Gets has performed in The Story of My Life, Amour and The Moliere Comedies. The three actors talked with Playbill.com about taking on the iconic roles in the most ubiquitous play in New York.
Tell me about playing the witches. Casting men is an unusual choice.
Byron Jennings: I think it's not done very often. It's certainly not been done in any of the productions I've done. It's very exciting because of that. John Glover: We're also shape-shifting and playing other roles, as the witches, playing other roles. It's a puzzle maze, I guess. We're in the middle of figuring it out. It's a very exciting time.
Malcolm Gets: [Jack] had some very strong ideas, but also encouraged us to explore and play more, and that's what we've continued to do. We also have Hecate… [who] is frequently cut from Macbeth, and she's in our play.
There's a lot of opportunity to present these roles in a new way.
BJ: I don't know why it's unique. When Shakespeare wrote it, when it was first performed, it would have been done by men. It's interesting to get back to that and explore it.
JG: I don't think I've read it since high school. I'm not up on it. I don't know a lot of the Macbeth traditions, which is actually very nice.
MG: Someone said she felt it made the play less misogynistic... having men in these roles. I would certainly say the three women we have, the characters and certainly the actresses, are incredible powerhouses.
|photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN|
What is it about Macbeth that is so universally appealing? You see it everywhere right now.
BJ: It's a classic. I think there is the classic tale of someone yielding to certain temptations, because of a need for power and what happens as a result, and how far it takes you. I think it's always very interesting to watch someone go through that.
JG: Look at what's happening in the world, what it's about, what we're in now. It's kind of frightening. Power, people's addiction for power. Jack talks a lot about addiction and humans' weaknesses for certain things, power being one of them.
MG: It comes from [Shakespeare's] later period. All of his plays are great, but like all of his best plays, it's incredibly tight, it's dense. It's one of his shorter plays, so he gets more in a compact way. It says great truisms about life in spectacular poetry. And, I also feel like it's of the moment, with the state of violence in the world, with warfare, with ambition, with greed, with demons, with fate.
How will this Macbeth set itself apart from the other productions?
JG: Its imagination and its rawness. I remember when I saw Ethan in the Henry IV that Jack directed. I was so blown away by the rawness and honesty of what he was doing. He's got a quality of likability…I think he'll draw everybody into the journey of this hero who gets whisked away by his addiction.
BJ: It's just great. This is my fifth production of Macbeth, and each time it's more and more interesting, just cracking this speech. The language is so rich and deep and extraordinary in this play. It's just fascinating. I like to hear it and explore it again, this time from another angle. I think that's part of the challenge, always, to access the elements of the play that are more or less timeless, as you say. There's always the element of someone seeking power and getting wound up to the extent that it destroys them.
MG: I have to say, with the way Jack is working, when I watch the scenes, they seem very human. They don't seem like people doing Shakespeare. It seems like you're watching a man and a woman — they could be anybody — talking about their ambition, trying to get ahead and making mistakes. Rather large mistakes.