Today is Shakespeare's birthday, and in his honor, and in his defense, I am resuming this Blog.
I have been very remiss about blogging for Broadway, as most of the dreams of my youth that made Broadway the biggest dream have been decimated by less than wonderful plays, if plays they are really at all (I was a Shakespeare major.) So I must begin my apologia with MACBETH, the show-off version, being a one-man display of all Shakespeare's angry brilliance squeezed into one usually super-talented man, to the detriment of both the playwright and the performer.
When you major in Shakespeare, at what was and I hope always will be one of the great women's colleges, Bryn Mawr, and have a teacher who himself was a student of Kittredge, supposedly the scholar/teacher/editor who made it all accessible, there are some things you hold dear: like poetry, plot and character. To have the Three Witches wonder when Will We Three Come Again? in the voice of the lunatic performer(the part, not a judgment of the man) in a madhouse, initially casts a spell, though I would warrant not the one the playwright intended.
I have long been a fan of Alan Cumming, whose versatility extends from Cabaret to the Good Wife, arguably the best show on television, to the recent surprise of seeing him on a re-broadcast of Romy and Michelle go to a High School Reunion or something like that, in which he played Sandy, the rich graduate who comes back in a helicopter and dances with both funny airheaded stars. The stunning question, for me at least, was how Hollywood had found him at such a young time, since most of the Brits or even Scots have their basic training and additional plumage brushed in theatre on that edge of the sea. He was likely in his early or middle twenties in that movie, so it was an impressive puzzle.
But to have all of that great play compressed into one man's rendition and depiction was not only unsettling, but unsatisfying. Especially as his least impressive depiction was that of Lady MacBeth, whom all of us who were hoping that a woman's place was in the theater, held as perhaps the best chance an actress had to show her dark side. If there is a dark side to Alan Cumming it is only that he bit off more than the most talented of actors can chew, much less spit out.
I suppose my disappointment is exacerbated by a plethora of unnecessarily naked bodies in this season's parade of less-than spectacles, and that Alan Cumming's was among them, taking a bath that one would be correct in describing as gratuitous, although that word may be too polite. I had the pleasure of attending a private tribute to the great stage designs of Tony Walton, and could not help thinking how much it would add to the ever-escalating price of sets, to have to have a portion of the stage that one could actually sink into and emerge from covering what are ever-increasingly less-than-private parts.
To my actual horror, as not only a student of theater but a lover of many hopes and dreams and visions of a spiritual nature, Jesus Christ's mother showed up as turbeulently depicted by Fiona Shaw, in a one woman show called The Testament of Mary, and she, too, took a bath. Before the opening curtain which there wasn't one of really, she more or less held out her interesting but very tight mouth as though to kiss the vulture she was holding bravely, which, by the way, disappeared and was never a part of the actual overwrought proceedings. We have all heard of a different kind of bird tease, but never, to my knowledge, a vulture tease.
On the way to the theater I had overheard someone say "I would go to anything Fiona Shaw was in," and wondered as the evening unfolded along with her clothes if that would include a bathtub. Where are we headed, if anywhere? I shudder to think what might happen to the statue of Shakespeare that stands so royally in Central Park. Its legs are really good. I hope no one tries to investigate what might be the rest of him.