Daniel Craig’s game is a disaster

Is that a Walther PPK I’m looking at?

Nearly! It is the former James Bond actor Daniel Craig who appears in “Macbeth” on Broadway as the Scottish kingslayer.

His unconcerned and ponderous staging (it opened Thursday night at the Longacre Theater but banned critics from publishing reviews until Friday noon for reasons you’ll soon understand) is a real thunderbolt.

theater criticism

Two hours and 20 minutes, with one break. At the Longacre Theatre, 220 W 48th Street. Until July 10th.

Witches, regicide, beheadings, and descents into madness become as boring and convoluted as Quantum of Solace.

The cast robotically yells “yay!” and “boo!” at messages delivered by other characters as if they were in a practice session for a freshman acting class; they carry flashlights and smoke machines; all seated in two red Wayfair chairs; There is confusing double and triple casting. And the tragedy ends with all the actors eating stew, smiling and singing a folk song.

By Macbeth!

Director Sam Gold proves once again that he doesn’t have a golden eye when it comes to directing Shakespeare’s plays.

Craig, a good actor in the past, is a victim of all the directorial trash. Gold appears to have instructed 007 and company to remain distant and indifferent in this oh-so-violent and propulsive work. Kings and killers sound like Iowans discussing soybeans.

What if the witches tell Mackers he’ll be promoted to Thane of Cawdor and then King of Scotland? meh “Is that a dagger I’m looking at?” Yawn. During “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,” Craig channels Hank Hill and opens a Bud Lite.

The three witches begin "Macbeth" B. Cooking soup and talking monotonously.
The three witches begin “Macbeth” by making soup and speaking monotonously.
Johanna Marcus

Incidentally, the three witches 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) and turn them into benign suburbanites. Borrowing clothes from the Hanson brothers, they begin the show by quietly cooking soup on a hot plate in the background while speaking in unmagical monotony.

“When will the three of us meet again?” might as well have been “When’s Jeopardy?”

No analysis of Gold’s presumptuous ideas will make this piece worth watching, but the witches’ whatever! Attitude might stem from a prologue he pinned. (For this director, The Work Is Not Enough.)

The superb actor Michael Patrick Thornton, who plays Lennox, informs us that in Shakespeare’s day false witches were blamed for a range of social ills and King James of Scotland was obsessed with their existence. All ignored the legitimate causes of the problems and turned to “HEXEN!” by default.

That witches don’t really exist and are just normal people is a great idea… for another play called Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. It’s a fantastic reason for “Macbeth” to leave on recess and go to Hurley’s next door.

Ruth Negga (right) as Lady Macbeth is one of the redeeming aspects of the Broadway show.
Ruth Negga (right) as Lady Macbeth is one of the redeeming aspects of the Broadway show.
Johanna Marcus

Not everything makes you run screaming down 48th Street in search of a vodka martini.

The wonderful Ruth Negga ignores the indulgences around her as the power-hungry Lady Macbeth. She has a melodious voice – a relief from the chorus of dry childbirth – and the requisite intensity for a woman plotting to assassinate King Duncan (Paul Lazar) in her sleep.

Also engaging and rebelliously energetic 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 bit over the top, but mostly because the rest of the play is the weight of a potato chip.

Daniel Craig's easy-going Macbeth chats up two killers (Danny Wolohan and Michael Patrick Thornton).
Daniel Craig’s easy-going Macbeth chats up two killers (Danny Wolohan and Michael Patrick Thornton).
Johanna Marcus

Still, her talent fails to redeem this overwrought, underplayed Skyfail.

It is significant that the only artistically successful Shakespearean production of the past decade, Twelfth Night starring Mark Rylance, went back to 16th-century basics rather than presenting us with an ill-conceived copy of the Wooster Group. But if the fact that Gold still had to direct this after his critically panned 2019’s “King Lear” is any indication, he will live to die another day.

And so ends the mediocre 2021-22 Broadway season. Next year I hope something better will come along this path.

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