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directed by George C. Wolfe (Joseph Papp Public Theater, New York City)

The first time George C. Wolfe--who directed Angels in America and Bring In 'da Noise, Bring In 'da Funk on Broadway--tried his hand at Shakespeare, it was The Tempest, and he pumped it full of island magic, puppets, drag queens on stilts, and Patrick Stewart as Prospero. The second time around, Wolfe has tackled Macbeth, with not one but two movie stars--Alec Baldwin and Angela Bassett--and more leather than a Harley-Davidson convention. It's riot enough. This is a relentlessly drab Macbeth. Even the sets are such homely rough planks that it looks like the thane of Cawdor and Lady M. are putting the king up overnight in their loft bed.

There's method to Wolfe's lack of madness. He means to show that Macbeth is deluded from the start, that he points to mumbo-jumbo auguries about his manifest destiny only to hide the murderous ambition in his own heart. It's an intriguing interpretation, cerebral and not very flashy. Unfortunately, the stars simply aren't up to the task. Resplendent beefcake that he is, Baldwin is leaden and overly naturalistic--De Niro comes to Dunsinane--while Bassett is simply over-the-top, high-strung, and overemphatic--Eartha Kitt goes to Juilliard. Without the sexy sparks that should ignite their reign of blood, the production falls into the Papp Theater's long tradition of snoozy stars-in-Shakespeare productions.
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Title Annotation:Joseph Papp Public Theater, New York, NY
Author:Sheweym Don
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Theater Review
Date:Apr 14, 1998
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