"Something Wicked This Way Comes" - Macbeth Fan Night With Alan Cumming

By Carey Purcell
July 10, 2013

Playbill.com reports on "Macbeth Fan Night" July 9, where guests attended a post-show reception with Alan Cumming. 

Cumming is battered, but not broken.

The star of a one-man adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth, set in a mental hospital, gives a physically and emotionally draining performance onstage at the Barrymore Theatre, but has still found the time to take self-portraits, otherwise known as "selfies," with his fans.

In the limited-run engagement, which ends July 14, Cumming plays Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Macduff, Lady Macduff, the three witches and about a dozen other characters from Shakespeare's tragedy. His own character, whom he refers to as Fred, has been hospitalized in a psychiatric ward for either committing, or having been the victim of a crime, and finds escape in reciting the script of Macbeth endlessly.

Following the July 9 performance, "Macbeth Fan Night" was held at the Paramount Bar and Grill, where Cumming enjoyed a post-show celebration and wine reception with fans. Guests waited in line to pose for photos with the star (which he snapped himself) in front of a media wall and then enjoyed specialty cocktails inspired by the play: the Macbeth Manhattan, the Bourbon Macduff or the Lady Macbeth Martini.

"I love Alan Cumming's body of work," Laura Winters, a professor from New Jersey, said while waiting in line. "It think is really the versatility of what he can do, which is, I think, shown in a play like Macbeth. That tour de force, to do both the tiny moments of comedy but also the moments of profound tragedy and loss and suffering."

Winters was impressed by Cumming's stamina throughout the performance, saying, "He's just so fit in so many ways. Not just physically fit. Emotionally. It's that integrity as an actor."

"Macbeth Fan Night" was a family outing for a trio whose son had recently read the play and whose parents said they were deeply moved by the show.

"He was fantastic – intense," said 18-year-old Patrick Mott.

"His rendition of Macduff's anguish was absolutely fantastic," Jeff Mott said. "To be able to do the entire play verbatim like that really gives great credence to his abilities."

Beatrice Mott described the show as, "Amazing. Absolutely amazing. Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful." 

Victorial Britoli made a return trip to Macbeth – for the fourth time – to attend Fan Night. She said each performance by Cumming had been a different experience.

"It's different every time," she said. "The gestures, the intonations, the inflections here and there. He switches it up every time."

Bitrioli and her daughter were so affected by Cumming's performance that they both had the question, "When shall we three meet again?" tattooed onto their arms. After waiting at the stage door for Cumming, he took a photo of them and posted it on his Twitter.

"We were screaming," she said. "It was the most amazing thing. It was just wonderful."

Cumming's devotion to his fans was demonstrated in various ways, such as when he appeared at the box office to hand out tickets to audience members purchasing rush tickets to the show. He also recorded a video blog called "The Cumming Attraction," filming his time backstage and in between performances.

"I've been really impressed by the way Ken Davenport and his team had this great, social media, thinking outside the box way to sell the show," Cumming said. "They've been able to attract a much younger audience than any Broadway show I've been in."

The effort to attract a younger audience is important to Cumming, who said, "I think it's to be encouraged, because it means there's a different way to get people into the theatre. And we need to get younger people into the theatre — the next generation of playwrights and performers."

While performing in Macbeth, Cumming has suffered various injuries due to the intensity of the play and his performance. When asked to list them, he said, "I'd be here until midnight," before mentioning a possibly rotated cuff, inner and outer ear problems and massive bruises as just a few of his battle wounds.

"It feels like someone's trapped in my body, trying to get out, writhing in my body," he said before revealing a large bruise on his back.

Despite his injuries, Cumming has survived the run, following a strict regimen of diet, exercise and vitamins.

"I've been really, really looking after myself," he said. "I'm trying not to party too much. And it's actually worked. I've only got four [performances] to go."

While Macbeth is coming to an end, Cumming may be returning to the stage soon in the hotly rumored revival of Cabaret, revisiting the role of Emcee, which won him a Tony Award in 1998. The production has not been confirmed by the Roundabout Theatre, but there was much speculation amongst people at "Macbeth Fan Night" as to whom would co-star with Cumming as Sally Bowles.

Cumming would not comment on Cabaret, but he did say he would enjoy doing a comedy onstage one day.

"Every play I do is so dark and bleak. Really. I can't think of the last time I did a comedy," he said. "In films I do. I guess when I do something in the theatre it's such a commitment, it has to be something I'm really passionate about. I guess there's more at stake, more to dig into, with something like this for me, than comedy. But right now I'd love to do some sort of farce."

While Cumming's fans have enjoyed his dark turn in the Scottish Play, he said, "I love it when people at the stage door say to me, ‘This is my first Broadway show!' I tell them, ‘They're not always like this. They're usually a bit lighter.'"