‘Macbeth’ Is the New Black With Ethan Hawke as Latest Scot

Scottish Play Joins New Titles from Norris, Lapine in the Lincoln Center Theater season

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.

More Legit

  • Because of Winn Dixie review

    Regional Theater Review: 'Because of Winn Dixie,' the Musical

    Watching the musical “Because of Winn Dixie” at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, Conn., it’s hard not to think of another show that premiered in the same regional theater 43 years ago. It, too, featured a scruffy stray dog, a lonely-but-enterprising young girl and a closed-off daddy who finally opens up. But “Winn Dixie,” based [...]


    Off Broadway Review: 'Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow'

    There’s something about Anton Chekhov’s whiny sisters that invites comic sendups of “Three Sisters” like the one Halley Feiffer wrote on commission for the Williamstown Theater Festival. Transferred to MCC Theater’s new Off Broadway space and playing in the round in a black box with limited seating capacity, the crafty show feels intimate and familiar. [...]

  • the way she spoke review

    Off Broadway Review: 'The Way She Spoke' With Kate del Castillo

    Since the 1990s, scores of women in Juarez, Mexico have been mutilated, raped, and murdered at such a rate that some have called it an epidemic of femicide—killing women and girls solely because they are women. Isaac Gomez’s play “the way she spoke,” produced Off Broadway by Audible and starring Kate del Castillo, confronts the [...]


    Brian Cox Playing LBJ in Broadway Run of 'The Great Society'

    Brian Cox will play President Lyndon Johnson in the Broadway run of “The Great Society,” playwright Robert Schenkkan’s follow-up to “All the Way.” The role of Johnson, a crude, but visionary politician who used the office of the presidency to pass landmark civil rights legislation and social programs, was originally played by Bryan Cranston in [...]

  • Paul McCartney Has Penned Score for

    Paul McCartney Has Been Secretly Writing an 'It's a Wonderful Life' Musical

    The pop superstar who once released a movie and album called “Give My Regards to Broad Street” really does have designs on Broadway, after all. It was revealed Wednesday that Paul McCartney has already written a song score for a stage musical adaptation of the 1946 Frank Capra film classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The [...]

  • The Night of the Iguana review

    West End Review: 'The Night of the Iguana' With Clive Owen

    If Tennessee Williams is the poet laureate of lost souls, none of his characters as are off-grid as the restless travelers trying to make it through his little-seen 1961 play, “The Night of the Iguana.” Holed up in a remote Mexican homestay, its ragtag itinerants live hand-to-mouth, day by day, as they seek refuge from [...]

  • Moulin Rouge Broadway

    Listen: The Special Sauce in Broadway's 'Moulin Rouge!'

    There are songs in the new Broadway version of “Moulin Rouge!” that weren’t in Baz Luhrmann’s hit movie — but you probably know them anyway. They’re popular tunes by superstars like Beyoncé, Adele and Rihanna, released after the 2001 movie came out, and they’ll probably unleash a flood of memories and associations in every audience [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content