After my day at the Central Park Zoo, I made my way to Brooklyn Bridge Park to meet rtb so we could see the New York Classical Theatre’s panoramic production of Macbeth. They do their plays at several locations throughout NYC and this was the last week we would be able to see it. I usually try to see at least two free summer Shakespeare plays in NYC – there are so many choices – but this was the only one for me this year. I prefer Battery Park of all the locations they use because I find it the easiest to hear the dialogue. In Central Park and in Brooklyn Bridge Park, the actors are usually competing with traffic or helicopter noises. The actors also seem further away from us in those locations.
While waiting I checked out the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge. And just before the field where the audience initially gathers, there was Anish Kapoor’s “Descension.” Looking at the photos now, the piece looks eerily like the hurricane photos that have been all over the news in the last few weeks. The swirling water was loud. Leaving after the play, we passed by the piece again and it was turned off and it seemed so sad and quiet.
There are always fun moments in the New York Classical Theatre. I like when they break the fourth wall. Usually it’s when we have to move to a new location and an actor will turn to us and say, “Come on,” and motion for us to follow. It didn’t feel like a fourth wall was broken when the witches spoke or motioned to us. Maybe because they seemed so much in the play but also outside of the action. One character did walk through the crowd and we all made room for him and he told us, “Good job!” Coincidentally, during a scene where there was a complaint about noise, a helicopter was overhead.
At dusk, bats started flying around. Having seen and been freaked out by the bats at the zoo, I was not happy about this development. I sat quietly while inside I was freaking out. All I kept thinking was that a bat was going to fly into the hair of one of the actors and I would get hysterical. Their flapping was so loud in my ears that I couldn’t hear the dialogue. I was never happier to get up and move to another location for the next scene.
It was sunset over the harbor, which would have made a lovely backdrop but they had us facing towards the park.
Macbeth: Methought I heard a voice cry, “Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep” – the innocent sleep, sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care, the death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath, balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, chief nourisher in life’s feast.
Lady Macbeth: What do you mean?
Macbeth: Still it cried, “Sleep no more!” to all the house. “Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor shall sleep no more. Macbeth shall sleep no more.”
Suddenly how Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More got its title made sense. I didn’t know it was a quote from Macbeth. I did know that their play was based on Macbeth.
And I learned that “Knock, knock. Who’s there?” came from Macbeth also.
The witches were raunchy, drunk, and bawdy. “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble,” is the quote that got me interested in witches when I was in the sixth grade and I would have loved to have been one of the witches in this production.
As always, all the actors were excellent, but I had a problem with Lady Macbeth. She sounded crazy and hysterical from her first line of the play. By the time she got to “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!” she didn’t seem any crazier than she had from the very beginning.
I always enjoy a good production of free Shakespeare and we’re lucky in NYC that we have several options. New York Classical Theatre never disappoints.
The company was Jenny Strassburg (Lady Macbeth); Olivia Russell (Witch); Claire Fort (Witch); Jamila Sabares-Klemm (Witch); Mark Murphey (Duncan); Ian Antal (Malcolm); Ally Carey (Rosse); Josh Jeffers (Lennox); Will Dixon (Macbeth); Clay Storseth (Banquo); Carter Horton (Fleance); M. Scott McLean (Macduff); Oliver Archibald (Angus); and Evan Moore-Coll (Seyton). Artistic director Stephen Burdman directed the play; Sarita Fellows was the production designer; and Keturah Thorpe was the design assistant/wardrobe supervisor.
By Carene Lydia Lopez