One of the most exciting times I had in high school was performing Macduff in Macbeth. Seventeen or eighteen years old, I was filled "toe to crown with direst cruelty," overflowing with bitterness, bile and anger at the world, eager to prove myself, topple idols, self-immolate in a ball of purifying aesthetic fire. I loved nothing so much as vigorous language, sacrilege, offending the old and spouting moral absolutes. I was a bit of an asshole, I suppose. But I was earnest, and intensely in love with Art. So playing Macduff was a tremendous way to release some of the adolescent angst and all that ineffable numinous dread and joy I felt. (Amazing what linguistic aptitude, combined with virginity and emotional reticence will produce in the young mind.) I thrilled to speak Macduff's grief-stricken words upon hearing that Macbeth put his wife and children to the sword:
He has no children. All my pretty ones?
Did you say all? O hell-kite! All?
What, all my pretty chickens and their dam
At one fell swoop?
O, I could play the woman with mine eyes
And braggart with my tongue! But, gentle heavens,
Cut short all intermission; front to front
Bring thou this fiend of Scotland and myself;
Within my sword's length set him; if he 'scape,
Heaven forgive him too!
And then, later, when Macduff finds his hated enemy on the field:
TURN HELLHOUND TURN
Lastly, these lines struck me to the quick:
Despair thy charm;
And let the angel whom thou still hast served
Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother's womb
My friend Ian McCulloch played the title role, and he and I worked out a totally amateurish but brutal sword fight in which we nearly murdered each other. Heavy swords, bulky wooden shields, no training, fat blood packs taped in hidden places and lots of fucking awesome fake fighting. (I say "amateurish" but my buddy Ian reminds me that we freakin' rocked a 1988 regional theater competition and walked away with a fight-choreography award.)
Back to for the "untimely ripp'd" line. Much significance there to me…it's a long story for another blog post (or several) and eventually a book, but basically, I'm adopted. And these lines, like others spoken by Shakespearean bastards (Edmund, Falconbridge, Thersites et al.) decanted into my heart.
Anyway, this is a long, personal preamble to say that I am very familiar with Macbeth, love it, and Rupert Goold's production at BAM (through March 22) is quite, quite excellent. Besides having a rock-solid cast led by the seasoned Patrick Stewart, it is visually and conceptually right-on. It uses a Stalinist framing concept, but lets it drift into metaphor in a lovely, unforced way. And it's actually scary.
Other reviews: NTUSA's daffy, sexy-silly Don Juan, which marks the first time that fiercely inventive company is tackling a classic. It's an experiment in authenticity, besides just being hilarious and immensely well-performed by a cast that includes Yehuda Duenyas, Jesse Hawley (above), James Stanley, Ean Sheehy, Ryan Bronz, Normandy Sherwood, Matt Kalman, Aimee McCormick and Ilan Bacharach. They mashed together different translations of the Molière text, and I think they let their acting styles follow suit. Review here. Lastly, I saw the Roundabout's utterly unnecessary and yet disappointing revival of Crimes of the Heart.