PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Feb. 9-15: The Curse Is Off

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Feb. 9-15: The Curse Is Off Theatre historians take note. A Macbeth not cursed by fate or the critics arrived in town this week.
Patrick Stewart in Macbeth
Patrick Stewart in Macbeth Photo by Alastair Muir

It came from England's Chichester Festival and the West End, where star Patrick Stewart and director Rupert Goold — �Britain's latest hot young director — �collected laurels all along the way. This week it landed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music for a six-week-stay, with mountains of press, a cacophony of good word of mouth, and whispers that a Broadway transfer might be in the offing. A Macbeth on Broadway that critics liked? Why, the last time that happened was — wait, has that ever happened?

New York reviewers on the whole were more enthusiastic about Stewart's nuanced portrayal of the murderous Scottish ladderclimber than they were about Goold's staging. Stewart, they said, gave the part unexpected depth, showing a man aware of and undone by his own ambition and bloody acts. One important critic (guess who) likened his Macbeth to Hamlet. Goold set the story in Stalin's Russia, made the three witches murderous nurses and piled on the special effects, many of them of a cinematic flavor. Critics applauded some of his inventions, such as the train-compartment murder of Banquo and double-perspective-playing of the banquet scene, while also opining that it was at times all a bit too much, and distracted from the text and Stewart's performance. At the end of the day, however, most agree this was the best production of The Scottish Play to hit New York in years and years.

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It's hard to top a well-done Macbeth for good news, but let's see what we can find. There were other openings this week. Many critics saw some hope for the musical theatre in Next to Normal, the new show at Second Stage by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey and directed by Michael Grief. They called it flawed, uneven, tired and disordered, but they also said it was ambitious, audacious, pulsing and fresh. And that, Jack, is what's known as mixed reviews. But there were good reviews enough to warrant an extension to March 16.

The reviews for The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island (Or, the Friends of Dr. Rushower) — that's the title — showed the critics in their surprised-positivity mode. They knew they were getting into quirky terrain when they went to The Vineyard Theatre to see a new musical by idiosyncratic, ur-New Yorky graphic novelist Ben Katchor and indy rocker Mark Mulcahy. And quirky is what they got, but they liked it! The oddball characters with their sweet, curious concerns and worries, and the fantastical plot, were found to be charming and satisfyingly sui generis. And, so, The Slug Bearers also extended its run, also to March 16. Another major Off-Broadway opening was the new revival of Beth Henley's Crimes of the Heart directed by Kathleen Turner. Based on the recent Williamstown Theatre Festival mounting (also directed by Turner), the oft-produced Henley work has Jennifer Dundas, Sarah Paulson and Lily Rabe as the three troubled Southern sisters. Critics commended Turner on her virgin foray into directing, and her cast as well. Do I hear an extension?

Elsewhere, the Classic Stage Company production of The Seagull, with Diane Wiest, extended to April 13 without having even started performances. The impact of "Law & Order" fans? Woody Allen fans? Chekhov fans?

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Christine Baranski

The theatre world will be a kinder place this fall because we'll be forced to say Boeing-Boeing all the time. The 1960s London sex farce that has become a smash all over again in the West End will begin previews at Broadway's Longacre Theatre April 19 with an official opening scheduled for May 4, it was announced.

Mark Rylance — who was recently nominated for an Olivier Award for his performance as Robert in the London production of Boeing — �will repeat his work for Broadway audiences. He will be joined onstage by Bradley Whitford and Christine Baranski.

Boeing, Boeing, Boeing, Boeing, Boeing, Boeing—OK, just getting into practice.

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