By Harry Haun
22 Apr 2013
|Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN|
Alan Cumming carried multitasking to new and dizzying heights at the Barrymore April 21 when he took on Macbeth and all roles therein in one 100-minute gulp—including Lady M, luxuriating in her bath or trying to get rid of that "damn spot."
Evidently, he already did a runthrough of this because the play opens with him being admitted to a mental institution, rocking back and forth unsteadily, bloodied around the shirt collar and in need of some medical repair. He sheds his clothes much like he sheds the text that follows, climbs into pristine-white patient togs and settles back into a fitful, fit-ridden stay of replaying The Scottish Play in his head.
That's the conceit the actor has been handed by his co-directors, John Tiffany and Andrew Goldberg. It first reached the stage last June 15 at Glasgow's Transway Theatre, a production of The National Theatre of Scotland. On the eve of its world premiere, Tiffany was compelled to come to New York to collect his Tony for directing Once, but co-pilot Goldberg avoided the greatest multi-personality pileup since "Sybil," and the following month it was brought over as part of the annual Lincoln Center Festival to play two weeks at New York's Rose Theatre. Ken Davenport saw it there and, in association with Hunter Arnold and a platoon of 16 other producers, decided it needed some extra innings on Broadway.
Nor does he technically do it alone. There are on duty a hulking orderly and an attentive doctor, burrowing in on his every move and twitch from a huge bay window overlooking his room, and bringing him back from death's door via a wrist-slitting incident and assorted other suicide attempts that come up during the bloody passages of Macbeth. In they sprint with their syringes and bandages. At first they tend to him inaudibly, then audibly as the story progresses. Eventually, they're uttering Shakespearean sound bites like the medicos' dismay over Lady Macbeth's deterioration.
At the let's-drink-about-it after-party at Hudson Terrace on the water's edge at West 46th, I had an occasion to discuss the case with his doctor, a whip-smart middle-aged actress named Jenny Sterlin, who wore the white smock of authority well and delivered the injections when needed (which was frequently).Continued...