PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 31-June 6: Kenneth Branagh's Macbeth Wickedly Good and Itís Tony Time

By Robert Simonson
06 Jun 2014

Kenneth Branagh as Macbeth
Photo by Stephanie Berger

Like It's Only a Play, the show will be a limited run. The production will play a 13-week engagement through Jan. 18, 2015.

The cast also includes Anthony Heald, a ubiquitous New York stage presence in the 1980s and early '90s, who here makes his first Broadway appearance in 18 years, Scott Lowell, Kathryn Meisle and Henry Stram.

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Which tragic Shakespearean character has most haunted New York stages over the past 18 months, King Lear or Macbeth? It's a tough call. There have been so many sightings of witches and fools on Broadway, Off-Broadway and elsewhere.

Adding to tally of Macbeths this week was the Park Avenue Armory's immersive production of Kenneth Branagh's rendition, which officially opened June 5 following previews that began May 31 in the Armory's expansive Wade Thompson Drill Hall. The staging is directed by Branagh and Rob Ashford.

Happy critics hailed the production as a triumph of energy and excitement, handing over what must be some of the best reviews Branagh has received in his career. "Gather round, sisters of dank darkness and midnight marsh, ye wasting wraiths who have tramped through many a peaty bog to see the Scottish Play," wrote Time Out New York, neatly encapsulating the play's checkered history in Gotham in recent years. "We who cackled on the aisle as Ethan Hawke and Jack O’Brien made Shakespeare’s dire tragedy even more appalling. We who gnashed our teeth as Alan Cumming supped on the scenery solo. We who cursed our fate in Brooklyn at a tediously spare import from Cheek by Jowl. We who wake screaming in the small hours, still haunted by Kelsey Grammer’s bloody butchery. Happy tidings, sisters: Kenneth Branagh has marched on the Park Avenue Armory and banishèd the curse!"

The New York Times was just as enthused: "Hearts beat fast in the thrilling new Macbeth that has transformed the Park Avenue Armory into a war zone, and every breath starts to feel like a gasp… This is the summer blockbuster that we wait for every year and too seldom find at the multiplexes, one of those action-packed, spectacle-drenched shows that sweep you right into their fraught, churning worlds and refuse to release you until the lights come up — and maybe not even then."

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