Is this a Walther PPK which I see before me?
Almost! It’s former James Bond actor Daniel Craig, who’s starring as the Scottish king killer in “Macbeth” on Broadway.
His uninvolving and ponderous production (it opened Thursday night at the Longacre Theatre, but barred critics from publishing reviews till midday Friday for reasons that will soon become obvious to you) is a real Blunderball.
Two hours and 20 minutes, with one intermission. At the Longacre Theatre, 220 W 48th Street. Through July 10.
Witches, regicide, beheadings and descents into madness are made as boring and convoluted as “Quantum of Solace.”
The cast robotically yells “yay!” and “boo!” at news delivered by other characters as though in a freshman acting class exercise; they lug around flashlights and smoke machines; everybody sits on two red Wayfair chairs; there’s confusing double and triple casting. And the tragedy ends with all the actors eating stew, smiling and singing a folk song.
Director Sam Gold proves, once again, that he does not have a GoldenEye for staging Shakespeare’s plays.
Craig, a fine actor in the past, is a victim of all the directing detritus. Gold seems to have told 007 and company to act detached and indifferent in this oh-so-violent and propulsive of works. Kings and murderers sound like Iowans discussing soybeans.
When the witches tell Mackers that he’ll be promoted to Thane of Cawdor and then King of Scotland? Meh. “Is this a dagger which I see before me?” Yawn. During “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,” Craig channels Hank Hill and cracks open a Bud Lite.
The three Witches, by the way, take one of the most exciting aspects of the play (check out Kathryn Hunter’s mesmerizing performance as the Weird Sisters in the recent Denzel Washington film version) and render them into benign suburbanites. Borrowing clothes from the Hanson brothers, they begin the show by calmly cooking soup downstage on a hot plate while speaking in unmagical monotone.
“When shall we three meet again?” might as well have been “What time is ‘Jeopardy’ on?”
No amount of analyzing Gold’s pretentious ideas will make this play any more watchable, but the Witches’ “whatever!” attitude might have derived from a prologue he tacked on. (For this director, The Work Is Not Enough.)
The excellent actor Michael Patrick Thornton, who plays Lennox, informs us that, in Shakespeare’s day, fake witches were blamed for a bunch of social ills and King James of Scotland obsessed over their existence. Everybody ignored the problems’ legitimate causes and defaulted to “WITCHES!”
That witches don’t really exist and are just normal people is a great idea … for a different play called “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller. For “Macbeth,” it’s a fantastic reason to leave at intermission and head to Hurley’s next door.
Not everything makes you want to run screaming onto 48th Street in search of a vodka martini.
Ignoring the indulgences around her is the wonderful Ruth Negga as power-hungry Lady Macbeth. She has a mellifluous voice — a relief from the chorus of dry deliveries — and the requisite intensity for a woman plotting to murder King Duncan (Paul Lazar) in his sleep.
Also committed and rebelliously energized are Amber Gray as Banquo and Grantham Coleman as Macduff. MacD’s emotional outburst when he discovers the fate of his wife and children is a tad over the top, but mostly because the rest of the play has the weight of a potato chip.
Nevertheless, their talent cannot redeem this overwrought, underacted Skyfail.
How telling it is that the only artistically successful Broadway Shakespeare production of the past decade, “Twelfth Night” starring Mark Rylance, went back to 16th-century basics rather than giving us a poorly thought out Wooster Group knockoff. But, if the fact that Gold still got to helm this after his critically panned “King Lear” in 2019 is any indication, he’ll live to die another day.
And so ends the so-so 2021-22 Broadway season. Next year I hope that, by the pricking of my thumbs, something better this way comes.