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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: June ::
Re: Macbeth is Listening
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1324  Friday, 30 June 2000.

[1]     From:   Pete Wilson <
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        Date:   Thursday, 29 Jun 2000 08:25:41 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: Macbeth is Listening

[2]     From:   Geralyn Horton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 29 Jun 2000 12:50:12 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1313 Macbeth is Listening

[3]     From:   Erick Kelemen <
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        Date:   Thursday, 29 Jun 2000 17:31:44 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1313 Macbeth is Listening


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pete Wilson <
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Date:           Thursday, 29 Jun 2000 08:25:41 -0700 (PDT)
Subject:        Re: Macbeth is Listening

Bob Haas (
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 ) asked:

>Did anyone see the recently defunct production of Macbeth in New York
>that starred Kelsey Grammar?  I wonder if he overcompensated.  To be
>fair, it's difficult to escape the kind of identification he's
>created with his television alter-ego.

Yes, a friend and I saw the production in Boston, in the deservedly
half-empty (should have been a clud) Colonial Theater, just before it
moved to NYC. Kelsey played the part at one emotional level --
barely-controlled frantic rage, like Mike Tyson on speed -- and did not
live up even to Dorothy Parker's assessment: he never made it to B. It
was a complete waste, imo. The capper was that ol' Kels got a standing O
-- totally bogus.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Geralyn Horton <
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Date:           Thursday, 29 Jun 2000 12:50:12 -0400
Subject: 11.1313 Macbeth is Listening
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1313 Macbeth is Listening

> Did anyone see the recently defunct production of Macbeth in New York
> that starred Kelsey Grammar?  I wonder if he overcompensated.  To be
> fair, it's difficult to escape the kind of identification he's created
> with his television alter-ego.
>
> [Editor's Note: The current Time magazine characterizes the Grammar
> *Macbeth* as one of the great flops of Broadway,

A similar squabble, less scholarly, is going on in the NYTimes Theatre
Forum.  An anonymous poster-- "Bodge1" is the signature, the Forum
doesn't permit human names, apparently to deny the prestige of Times
publication to the opinions expressed there-- anyway, someone called
Bodge1 from Boston who sounds very like a respected local actor of my
acquaintance is defending Kelsey Grammar's MacB: on economic grounds,
essentially.  Bodge1 makes the point that in the non-subsidizing US of
A, only a star who is a successful pro at TV or film and an amateur at
Shakespeare can get $ backing, and it is a courageous thing for him to
do.  In the short rehearsal periods that are all we Yanks can afford it
is not surprising that the production will be shallow and the classical
acting barely competent at opening.  If the popularity of the star is
sufficient to win the production an extended run in spite of mixed
reviews, the actors will dig in and endow it with depth. But it is
unfair to compare such efforts to the RSC, whose actors who have decades
of experience in performing Shakespeare and the luxury of months rather
than weeks of rehearsal.

Geralyn Horton, Playwright
Newton, Mass. 02460
<http://www.tiac.net/users/ghorton>

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Erick Kelemen <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 29 Jun 2000 17:31:44 -0400
Subject: 11.1313 Macbeth is Listening
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1313 Macbeth is Listening

I and three friends saw the second- or third-to-last performance of the
run -- we liked it, despite its flaws -- and I can say unequivocally
that Macbeth was not played by Dr. Crane.  Grammer (spelled -er) was
actually very good -- better in ensemble than in soliloquy, but always
very good.  The porter and Seyton were played expertly by Peter Gerety,
whom I knew only from his role as a detective on "Homicide," though he
has had a very full career on the stage.  Other television notables,
mainly Michael Gross, were less notable; not bad, just not outstanding,
either.

The real problem with the play, as I saw it, was not the acting but the
directing.  Only the porter scene recognized that an audience was
present, for instance, and not surprisingly that scene seemed to be the
audience's favorite.  Moreover, the cuts in the text were rather odd.
For instance, no one explains to the audience why Birnam wood might
suddenly appear where it shouldn't, no sense that it's part of a
strategic plan of an advancing army.  It just appears onstage, not
carried by soldiers.  Poof!  A forest.  The performance relied too
heavily on lighting and sound tricks to create emotions, too, so that
after feeling startled by a sudden explosion of light and sound, I
didn't feel as though I were on the battlefield with Macbeth, or in the
sudden presence of women who could control the elements, and I didn't
feel awed as I think I was supposed to.  I briefly felt annoyed, but
that was all.

And there were small glitches that left me wondering what was going on
backstage, too.  When Venora came out for her first appearance as Lady
M., her long skirt was tucked into her hose in back, not so much that it
looked horribly silly, but enough that everyone noticed the difference
in her second appearance.  At one point in the performance, a cell phone
started ringing, and one of my friends is convinced that it belonged not
to a rude audience member but to one of the witches!  She claims that
the phone was being picked up by a microphone and that she saw the witch
reach into her clothing and turn it off.  Perhaps it was her agent with
news about her next role. . . .

As I say, we did enjoy it.  I don't think it should have been panned,
but I also wouldn't call it brilliant.  On balance, it was good.
Grammer should certainly be encouraged to play more Shakespeare.

Erick Kelemen
Department of English
University of Delaware
 

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