Friday, November 1, 2013

Thoughts on Waiting for Godot and Macbeth

I'm taking my cough on the road, infecting audiences all over Broadway!  Woo hoo!  :)  Actually, a friend gave me a ticket to an early preview of Waiting for Godot, starring Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, so I couldn't not go; and I had purchased my TDF ticket for Macbeth a long time ago.  So, sick or no, I was heading out to the theater.  In my humble opinion, I was a good audience member, always having extra cough drops unwrapped and my bottle of water at the ready.  I am totally worn out, though, so I'm going to try to lay low before my big trip to Los Angeles next week (well, except for my greatly-anticipated trip to the ballet on Sunday afternoon, but that will energize me and make me feel better).  Because both of these shows are really early in previews, I won't get into too many details, since things could change.  If you take me out for drinks, though, I could perhaps expand on my thoughts...

photo by Sasha Gusov
Wednesday night, I saw maybe the third or fourth preview of Waiting for Godot, part of a double bill starring Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart (they're also doing Pinter's No Man's Land, which I also must see).  As I expected, they were theatrically spectacular.  The long-time relationship between these two men is so apparent in their characterizations, and so apropos.  Having been together for 50 years, Gogo and Didi must have a relationship that seems real and longstanding.  Patrick Stewart is Didi and he is wonderfully verbose, yet so physically nimble.  But when his anguish at the non-arrival of Godot AGAIN comes, you are torn apart.  At least, I was.  And Ian McKellen is genius as Gogo.  The audience was cracking up at all of his line readings, but there was also such poignancy and lurking mortality underneath.  I found them both sublime.  If I found Shuler Hensley and Billy Crudup less sublime, well, there it is.  They have a month to sublime themselves up.  And, seriously, how can people even compete with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen?!  Good on them for even trying!  Billy Crudup's gibberish monologue was pretty spectacular, though.  He looks like a cross of the Elephant Man, Smike from Nicholas Nickleby and Johnny Depp.  His abject pitiableness is so apparent, I had to look away at times.  And I just think Shuler Hensley needs time.  I'm pretty sure he has an amazing Pozzo in him.

My seat was horrible, probably the worst in the house, all the way far right, by the door to the boxes.  I couldn't see any entrances on stage left, nor could I see the tree.  Um, the tree is important.  I wish I could've seen it.  I also didn't get a real sense of how the production worked in the space.  I think the set was good - it looked like the crumbled ruins of an old theater, which is fascinating, but from my seat, I just couldn't tell.  They should probably make my seat obstructed view, but, for free, I shouldn't complain.  The guy next to me felt sorry for me, which was funny.  I guess I wish I had seen the show later in the run, but I'm awfully glad I got to see it at all.  I can't really describe the pleasure I got from seeing Stewart and McKellen - it's as if their generous good hearts, affection for each other, along with their total respect for and commitment to the play, permeated everywhere.  You should go.

I had thought that seeing Macbeth on Halloween would be a fun idea.  It's got witches.  :)  Actually, I think we've previously established how much I love the play.  I greatly enjoyed Alan Cumming's version that played last season; I also enjoyed Patrick Stewart in the role a few years ago.  So when a TDF ticket appeared, I pounced.  I admit to having suspicions about Ethan Hawke as Macbeth.  Preconceived notions, if you will.  Now, again, I only saw the third or fourth preview, but my suspicions were correct.  Of course, he has a month to fine tune, but his slacker/underplaying persona didn't really work for me in this role.  I will say that he had a wonderful rapport with his Lady Macbeth, and his text was generally clear throughout, but I needed a little something more.  A little something heightened, perhaps, especially in the monologues.  I thought Brian d'Arcy James was a fantastic Banquo, and I loved John Glover, Byron Jennings and Malcolm Gets as the witches.  I also loved how the witches were integrated throughout the evening.  I thought Anne-Marie Duff was a fantastic Lady M, with some very interesting line readings.  I'm generally a purist when it comes to Shakespeare, but she made her text work because it was steeped in characterization and not 'hey, look how I can change up Shakespeare.'  Richard Easton was a wonderful Duncan.

I found this online.  I'm sorry I don't know the photographer.
Unsurprisingly, in such a big cast, some cast members fared better than others.  Again, they have a long way to go before opening, so I won't say any more about that.  I will say that I liked a lot of the directorial concept and I thought the physical production was amazing.  There is one spectacular effect that I will remember for a long time.  But I will also say I strongly disagreed with several directorial choices.  So it made my viewing experience uneven.  On the whole, it was a worthy effort and I wouldn't be opposed to checking it out again later in the run.  Of course, I just love the play.  The people next to me?  Not so much.  I had to tell the gentleman to sit still.  He was so distracting.  The guy behind him thanked me at intermission.  I may have given him whooping cough, but I also restored his sightline.  :)   I was surprised that the house was not full, but I'm sure attendance will pick up as the run continues.  So I'd say grab a discount ticket and go.  There's one spectacular effect you'll probably never forget, either...

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