Theater Review: 'Macbeth' -- 2 stars
Alan Cumming’s “Macbeth,” in which he recites almost the entire Shakespeare text and portrays every major character, falls somewhere between being a fierce, fearless, one-of-a-kind theatrical experience and an incomprehensible vanity project.
This production, which originated with the National Theatre of Scotland, was briefly seen in New York last summer as part of the Lincoln Center Festival.
Cumming, who rose to prominence with his unforgettable, Tony-winning take on the Emcee in “Cabaret” back in 1998, has not appeared on Broadway since a dreadful revival of “The Threepenny Opera” in 2006.
He could have surely made a fine Macbeth, or for that matter Lady Macbeth. But here he plays both of them, as well as Banquo, King Duncan, Macduff, Lady Macduff, Malcolm and even those strange, prophesying witches.
The concept is that Alan Cumming is a mental patient who, having been locked away in a large green-tiled asylum and under close video surveillance, proceeds to perform the play in a kind of delirious fever dream.
He uses the large set, which is packed with props, pieces of furniture and closed-circuit TV monitors, as a kind of jungle gym.
To be fair, there are two other actors — Jenny Sterlin and Brendan Titley — who portray attendants that occasionally administer to Cumming or observe his behavior.
Considering how Cumming only barely alters his voice or manner of delivery for each specific character, it would probably be impossible for someone unfamiliar with the play to be able to understand it here.
Despite Cumming’s extreme commitment, intricate lighting effects and an eerie soundscape, this “Macbeth” is essentially just a glorified acting exercise.
‘Macbeth’ plays at the Barrymore Theatre through June 30. 243 W. 47th St., 212-239-6200, telecharge.com.