Macbeth OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

  • NY TIMES

  • VARIETY

  • DAILY NEWS

  • EW

  • HR

Opening Night:
June 5, 2014
Closing:
June 22, 2014

Theater: Park Avenue Armory / 643 Park Avenue, New York, NY, 10021

Synopsis: 

Shakespeare’s classic tale of ambition and treachery gets a thrilling new life in the U.S. premiere of the electrifying production by Rob Ashford and Kenneth Branagh, following its acclaimed sold-out run at the Manchester International Festival in England. Kenneth Branagh, in his first Shakespeare performance in more than a decade, is joined by Alex Kingston, in their highly-anticipated New York stage debuts, as the once great leader and his adored wife, who incites him to sell his soul in the quest for greater power.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Macbeth

    Rushing Headlong Into the Hurly-Burly

    Ben Brantley

    June 6, 2014: Hearts beat fast in the thrilling new Macbeth that has transformed the Park Avenue Armory into a war zone, and every breath starts to feel like a gasp. Rob Ashford and Kenneth Branagh’s galloping British-born production, which opened on Thursday night with Mr. Branagh in the title role, saturates everyone in it in adrenaline. Make that everyone watching it, as well. This is the summer blockbuster that we wait for every year and too seldom find at the multiplexes, one of those action-packed, spectacle-drenched shows that sweep you right into their fraught, churning worlds and refuse to release you until the lights come up — and maybe not even then. Of course, the dialogue here is a bit richer than that of films inspired by comic books. But it’s also a whole lot tastier, and there’s not a line spoken that doesn’t seem to have grown organically from the wicked hurly-burly on the stage. Once you do catch your breath and can think calmly about what you’ve seen, you’ll realize with how much care and intelligence this production has been assembled. But it’s your viscera that dictate your responses while you’re watching, and you have no alternative but to ride the speeding, jolting juggernaut that is this Macbeth until it finally lets you off after two intermissionless hours.

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  • VARIETY REVIEW OF Macbeth

    Off Broadway Review: 'Macbeth' Starring Kenneth Branagh

    Gordon Cox

    June 5, 2014: There’s something magnificently depraved about the vision of Macbeth evoked by Kenneth Branagh and Rob Ashford for the immense (55,000 sq. ft.) playing field of the Drill Hall of the Park Avenue Armory. Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy may be a cautionary tale about the brutalizing legacy of war and the perils of political ambition. But the best bits in this visceral production are the rousing battle scenes, the gory murders, and the nasty synergy between sex and violence. And let’s admit it: Branagh’s Macbeth is a bloody beast. The buzz begins at the entrance of the Armory, which retains its original character as a military fortress. After picking up your tickets for this site-specific spectacle, you’re assigned to a specific Scottish clan and ceremoniously ushered into one of the Armory’s grandly restored period rooms. At the summons of alarmingly loud bells, hooded druids appear to lead each clan single-file into the near-darkness of the drill hall. Here, the silent guides takes you down the narrow paved paths that cross this barren heath, steering you past mossy rocks, tufted grasses and standing pools of water to a seat in the bleachers flanking two sides of a traverse stage.

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  • NEW YORK DAILY NEWS REVIEW OF Macbeth

    Kenneth Branagh brings us his best Bard yet in killer 'Macbeth'

    Joe Dziemianowicz

    June 5, 2014: More than the air is foul and filthy in Kenneth Branagh’s thriller-diller production of Macbeth. Actors’ feet, faces and limbs, plus the hems of Lady M’s period ground-scraping frocks end up soiled in this fast-moving, ferocious and, alas, sold-out take on Shakespeare’s power play. That dirt is inevitable. The playing space in this show from Manchester, England, is a stretch of earth — scorched, no doubt — that divides two sets of high-rising bleachers for the audience. At one end there’s a huge candlelit stone structure with religious motifs. At the other, there’s a pagan altar forged from huge rocks. Add thunder, lightning and rain — and mud happens. That’s all part of this two-hour immersive experience cannily cast and staged by Branagh, a seasoned Shakespeare pro, and Broadway’s Rob Ashford. Through canny theatricality, the production creates a whole world to transport us to the scene of the crime.

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  • ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY REVIEW OF Macbeth

    Macbeth (2014)- Entertainment Weekly

    Thom Geier

    June 5, 2014: Making his New York acting debut in a visually stunning production of Macbeth that he codirects with Rob Ashford, Kenneth Branagh plays the Scottish king-slayer as an action hero who chases headlong into battle and only pauses to consider the consequences of his actions afterward, to undeniably tragic effect. It's a bold interpretation that suits a production that unfolds at a furious clip — and places the audience just inches from the action. Theatergoers enter NYC's cavernous Park Avenue Armory, where the show runs through June 22, grouped in clans and led by hooded figures carrying torches. They cross a stone path through a heath that even seems to smell of peat, and are seated in steep bleachers (padded but with no chair backs), two sets of which face each other. In between there's a narrow, dirt-covered corridor where the actors perform within arm's reach of the first-row patrons. Indeed, the front walls tremble during the opening battle as soldiers careen into the embankment and leave muddy handprints thanks to a drenching rain that falls from overhead.

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  • HOLLYWOOD REPORTER REVIEW OF Macbeth

    'Macbeth': Theater Review

    David Rooney

    June 5, 2014: Kenneth Branagh first made his mark as a screen director with his pared-down yet robust 1989 version of Henry V. His film output since then has ranged with varying success from personal projects like Peter's Friends through further Shakespeare adaptations to giant popcorn odysseys like Thor. This sensational environmental stage production of Macbeth, which Branagh stars in and co-directed with Rob Ashford, is in many ways a logical culmination of that eclectic experience – a medieval, mystical blockbuster that combines superlative, fuss-free classical theater acting with muscular storytelling, visceral physicality and propulsive rollercoaster pacing. Oh, and lots of mud. The production was jointly commissioned by the Park Avenue Armory and Manchester International Festival, premiering last July in the intimate confines of a deconsecrated church in that Northern English city. Reconfiguring their site-specific staging for the Armory's massive, 55,000-square foot Drill Hall, the directors and a brilliant design team led by Christopher Oram have created a traverse stage flanked on two sides by steeply raked spectator stands. A Middle Ages jousting tournament would look right at home here. But the immersive aspect kicks in even before we get there.

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