For a title that’s famously cursed, legiters sure are saying “Macbeth” a lot these days.
Lincoln Center Theater’s upcoming Broadway staging of the Scottish play, toplined by Ethan Hawke and directed by Jack O’Brien, will be the second Rialto incarnation in a year, with Alan Cumming’s solo version of the show still playing at the Barrymore Theater.
Add to that a spate U.K. stagings — James McAvoy toplined a West End incarnation that opened in February, another London production (directed by Eve Best) starts perfs at Shakespeare’s Globe later this month and Kenneth Branagh will topline the play at the Manchester Intl. Fest next month — and the Bard’s bloody tragedy starts to look downright trendy.
“Shakespeare plays have these moments like this, when there’s something in the air or in the zeitgeist that makes theater artists think, ‘This is the play to do now,’ ” said LCT a.d. Andre Bishop.
It’s probably too easy to say that “Macbeth” appeals because we live in an ambitious, violent age, but that might have something to do with it. Coincidences of scheduling and talent availability are always a factor as well.
Besides that, the enduring appeal of the play, both for creatives and for the theaters who program it, is easy to identify.
“Macbeth” is both action-packed and, compared to a lot of Shakespeare titles, unusually short — the shortest of the canon’s tragedies. It also boasts a wealth of famous speeches plus two juicy, actor-bait roles in the title character and Lady Macbeth, the power-hungry couple whose ambition and paranoia eventually destroy them.
“It’s one of Shakespeare’s most accessible plays,” said Ken Davenport, who produces the Broadway run of the Cumming production. “It’s Shakespeare’s horror movie.”
According to O’Brien, the director and Hawke have talked about the possibility of collaborating on a production of “Macbeth” for close to a decade. Although his production seems likely to eschew modern-day flourishes in favor of a nightmarish mood, he does imagine the show will strike plenty of contemporary chords.
“The production’s meant to feel like a very American story, even though it’s not at all about America,” he said.
Hawke, now starring in two smaller-budget films (“The Purge” and “Before Midnight”) currently overperforming at the box office, has been a regular New York stage presence for several years, most recently appearing Off Broadway last season in the New Group’s “Clive” and Classic Stage Company’s “Ivanov.” His “Macbeth” gig reunites him with both LCT and O’Brien, who directed Hawke in LCT’s Rialto productions of “The Coast of Utopia” (which earned the thesp a Tony nom in 2007) and “Henry IV.” He’s also appeared in Shakespeare on screen in Michael Almereyda’s 2000 movie version of “Hamlet.”
“Macbeth” kicks off LCT’s 2013-14 Broadway programming, back at the Vivian Beaumont Theater on the Lincoln Center campus after the long run of “War Horse” there and the venue’s current rental tenant, “Ann,” which will close later this month.
“Macbeth” was announced with three other titles on tap for LCT’s 2013-14 slate. Writer-director James Lapine’s adaptation of Moss Hart autobio “Act One” will bow at the Beaumont in the spring, while lined up for LCT’s Off Broadway stage are the latest by Bruce Norris (“Clybourne Park”), “Domesticated,” to star Laurie Metcalf under the direction of Anna D. Shapiro (“August: Osage County”), and Anthony Giardina’s new play “The City of Conversation,” directed by Doug Hughes.
The Hawke-led production of “Macbeth” begins previews Oct. 24 ahead of a Nov. 21 opening at the Beaumont.