By Marcina Zaccaria
The Scottish play is always a bloody, vengeful riot, fit to topple any pre-existing play structure that might rival it. Fans of this Shakespearean tragedy wait for the military parades and the decidedly conspiratorial plots of revenge. Set on the steps of Bryant Park, directly behind the New York Public Library, the language of Macbeth sounded neither labored nor chewed to bits.
Outdoor theater presents its own set of challenges. In this delightful evening, wind rippled through the backdrops, music from a nearby restaurant competed with speeches from the players, and theater goers wondered whether front row seats or a picnic blanket might be a better place to watch the show. The truth is, any seat was a good seat. In the production on September 1st at 7PM – right in the middle of the Labor Day Weekend – the lights brought a flashing spectacle that was filled with color and definition.
Complemented by the mid-1800’s costumes, it gives the mind a rest from what can be a repetitive nightmare. Inspired by the style of Old New York, the top hats and long skirts make the royalty appear like all New York is theirs for the taking. The amplified head microphones and the frequent, loud sound effects build an ambience that is polished and sophisticated. Posing against tall buildings, running up and down the stairs leading to the back of the NYPL, they are never overtaken by their own majestic energy.
With this installment of Shakespeare from the Drilling Company, this group of theater artists seem differently up-for-the-challenge than those accustomed to bringing you Shakespeare in the Parking Lot on the Lower East Side. One old man and a child round out a cast complete with strong men and wickedly crafty women. As Macbeth, Bradford B. Frost is calculated. The three witches (Denis Haugh, Niamh Ryan, and Una Clancy) enmesh their conjuring directly with the lead character’s objectives, bubbling a cauldron of trouble, ripe for resolution. Their staging appears sculpted and precise, though still free in the open air. Across one of the three platforms, we witness the bluster of Bryce Dutton as Macduff and the determined presence of Skyler Gallun as Malcolm, we get the sense that the Drilling Company has truly fortified over its five years of presenting Bryant Park Shakespeare.
Ivory Aquino is a stunning Lady Macbeth. Lit by a blue and purple haze of lights, sleepwalking and wringing her hands, Director Hamilton Clancy has chosen to feature her portrait-like. It is as if he has taken a still photo, expanded the time around it, and asked you to look, very carefully, before you listen.
Clancy seems to elapse time brilliantly in other moments of this production, leaving a series of remarkable images, before allowing audience members to drift back into the trees and towards the skyscrapers of New York City.
Photos: Andrew Fassbender