A retraction from my previous post about Alan Cumming’s “one-man Macbeth” — it actually has a cast of three. Cumming’s backline support consists of two other actors, Myra McFadyen and Ali Craig. They play the hospital attendants to Cumming’s crazed patient, who is doomed to repeat Shakespeare’s dark verse anew.
Cumming’s interpretation of the text is fascinating to behold. His switch from character to character occasionally feels like an exercise in madness, as he assumes the pose of a character he has just finished speaking to moments before. More often though, Cumming is an engaging figure, with his dimwitted King Duncan and sensual Lady Macbeth providing vivid layers to well-known characters. His Macbeth though was far less interesting, and I could not understand his motivations for the crown and his ultimate resignation to his fate.
The production, helmed by directors John Tiffany and Andrew Goldberg, is just as inventive as Cumming’s performance. Video monitors above the stage help to personify the Weird Sisters, and the set, designed by Merle Hensel, provides all sorts of surprises, including a bird trapped in a vent that Cumming later uses for a disturbing blood ritual.
What I found most interesting about the production was the relationship between Cumming’s madman and the the attendants. They watch his ravings from an upper window, dress and carry him to bed, and even provide lines upon occasion. It’s almost a take on theatre itself–we can do a show alone in a cell, but why should we?
Macbeth played as part of the Lincoln Center Festival at the Rose Theater, July 5-14.