By Harry Haun
22 Nov 2013

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Ethan Hawke and Anne-Marie Duff
Photo by Monica Simoes
First-nighters don't usually have such a nice commute. This one was just an easy amble from the Beaumont Theatre across the Lincoln Center courtyard to Avery Fisher Hall, which had turned over its orchestra level and First Tier lobbies for the festivities.

Ethan Hawke, the Macbeth of the evening, arrived with his wife, grinning from ear to ear and still singing the praises of his director. "He guided me right down the rails," he beamed. "I feel so good about the production. Jack wanted to do this play. He had a vision for it. He knows it so well, and he has something he wants to say with it."

The other Macbeth at the theatre was in the audience. James McAvoy won an Olivier nomination in the role earlier this year and just bopped over from Britain to see his wife, Anne-Marie Duff, make her Broadway bow as Lady Macbeth. They opted not to play it together — marriage is hard enough without having to go through that — so he was delighted the role came her way anyway. "It's a part every actress wants to play, and I'm glad she got a chance to take it on," he said. "I thought she was brilliant."

Duff was O'Brien's outside-the-box idea. They had met briefly, years ago, when he caught her Olivier-nominated performance of Saint Joan at the National Theatre.

It's ironic Lady Macbeth did what Saint Joan couldn't — get the actress to Broadway. There was talk early in the millennium of her doing Joan here, "but it was very tricky at the time. Here was a huge production about a religious fundamentalist, and at that point in time in New York, I think people wouldn't have found it that easy to digest, which is a shame. It's such a wonderful part for a woman. Funny, you will get a rash of five Hamlets in a row, but you won't even get two Saint Joans in a decade."

She may just be the best-dressed Lady Macbeth in years, no small thanks to Catherine Zuber's costuming. "The director felt she was a woman who was really into privilege and power so we felt her clothing needed to show someone who lived a life that was filled with image so the image to her character was like that."

To date, Jonny Orsini has yet to do a Broadway show without director O'Brien, who cast him first in The Nance and now as Malcolm in Macbeth — but getting Job Two wasn't as easy as falling off a log, the actor insisted. "When I found out he was going to do Macbeth, I asked him if I could read for Malcolm, and he was like, 'Have you worked on text before?' I said, 'Yes,' but he put me through the wringer a little bit. I had to come in four different times. I had three callbacks. He didn't just say, 'Hey, you want to play Malcolm?' I wasn't really sure about it the whole way through."