Macbeth (Shakespeare Theatre Company: APR 25-MAY 28)

When I work on a play, I think about where I’m doing it and figure out what the pulse of that city is. In this case, it’s D.C., it’s politics—and it’s also structural politics. They’d understand this idea I’d have. So I identify the place and then I figure out how to get the play into the laps of the audience, so it’s not an intellectual thing that they can just sit back and let wash over them—it feels visceral. It feels like it’s a play for them.

-Liesl Tommy, Director

Director Liesl Tommy grew up in segregated Cape Town, South Africa, before immigrating to Boston at age 15 w/ her family. She has located her Macbeth in some unnamed, majority-Muslim (note the hijabs) country in North Africa. This is a land troubled by civil war in the modern-day. The three “witches” are mysterious foreign operatives, lead by Hecate (who has a Russian accent a la Putin). 

If you’re familiar w/ the play, you’ll quickly notice that several of the originally male characters have become female: Duncan, Donalbain, Ross, Young Lennox, one of the (here only a teen) assassins, Macduff’s child, and the Doctor. This production is also influenced by House of Cards; you’ll note how Macbeth’s monologues/asides are done. (In 2013, Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright explained that they modeled their Frank and Claire Underwood roles after the ultimate power couple, Macbeth and Lady M.)

I think this production will appeal more to those who are NOT so familiar w/ (or invested in) Shakespeare. As you may know, I’m NOT one of those folks (LOL)! In my opinion, there are some effective scenes, BUT as a whole, there is a LOT missing. Sometimes the energy gets low, such as the extended dance number and coronation scene. It could’ve been much shorter (as was noted in Washington City Paper). 

Above all, Macbeth offers a glimpse of the tragic themes that seemed to obsess Shakespeare—the corrupting currents of power and ambition, the inevitability of time, the toxic intimacy of husbands and wives, blood that will have blood. All of these themes can be said to equivocate, extending the play’s resonance beyond its specific context and Shakespeare’s life and times to shed insight on our own. 

-Drew Lichtenberg, Literary Manager

In the lead role, Jesse J. Perez is comfortable w/ The Bard’s language, BUT there is something missing in the way he expresses the words. 

Though he may be committed and driven, Jesse J. Perez embodies Macbeth with volume and gesture, but little else. If he is to stir and unsettle, Macbeth must convincingly reveal his inner battles — between right and wrong, between strength and weakness, between ambition and cowardice. It is found in the subtleties of the language, its music, and the expressive spaces in between. Perez misses these opportunities, choosing instead a broad and agitated brush. 

-Kate Wingfield (Metro Weekly)

Nikkole Salter does a  fine job as Lady Macbeth; the audience seemed to like her performance. Her Lady M is an alpha female, for sure! The way she interacts w/ her husband make their marriage seem like one of convenience, NOT passion (as I’ve usually seen portrayed onstage and film). Salter has command of the language, which contributes to an exciting presence. 

As one watches the appealing earnestness and latent dark energies (seen to great effect when he turns into a ghost) of McKinley Belcher III’s Banquo, the friend so cruelly betrayed by Macbeth, it’s hard not to wonder what he might have done with the title role. 

-Kate Wingfield (Metro Weekly)

It took me a few minutes, BUT I recognized Belcher from PBS’ Mercy Street. Now that may NOT be the most interesting show, BUT his character is a pretty interesting/conflicted man. As for Corey Allen, his Malcolm is VERY effective. This is a leading man in the making, no doubt! 

It’s an interesting take on Macbeth the story, but it has a crippling effect on Macbeth the character. Tommy has replaced the godhead (or, at least, the Meddlesome Fortunetellers) with Uncle Sam, but Shakespeare wasn’t interested in puppets. 

By amputating the supernatural elements, STC has grounded Macbeth on the human plane, which was its intention. Attempts to make the man “resonate” with 2017 theatergoers, however, rob him of his twisted, fatalistic nobility. This is the worst character Shakespeare still liked, not some banana republic placeholder.

Brightest Young Things

Indian-American actress Anu Yadav (who I saw last year in The Who and The What at Round House Theatre) is part of the company; she plays an assassin and maidservant to Lady Macbeth. Later on, I saw in the playbill that Lady Macduff was also played by a South Asian actress- Nilanjana Bose.

Myra Lucretia Taylor (who was interviewed recently on WETA) provides some (much needed) humor as the Porter. In another small role, the Doctor, she brings gravitas. Taylor is obviously comfortable w/ Shakespeare’s language! 

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Into the Badlands (AMC): Season 2, Episodes 5 & 6

NOTE: This review contains SPOILERS. A new episode will be airing Sunday, April 30th (10PM EST) on AMC.

Episode 5: Monkey Leaps Through Mist

Jade (teary-eyed, yet determined) becomes Baron in a ceremony which shows us more of the world of the show. Later, Lydia arrives to see the body of her dead son; she wants to get revenge for his death (just as Jade does). 

***

Quinn is being haunted by the ghost of Ryder; this reminded me of the Macbeth and Banquo dinner party scene in Macbeth. Veil is interrogated by a Clipper for killing the guy that was guarding her and Henry.  Her words are NOT convincing though. Later, Quinn threatens the life of her baby (holding small dagger to his throat), so Veil takes extreme measures. She tells him that they can be a family (which is what Quinn wants in his crazed brain) and kisses him!  Luckily, she escapes the underground training camp (West Avalon) in the confusion after the explosion at the end of the ep.

***

Sunny and Bajie are staying at this camp, after impressing its leader, Nos (Marc Rissmann), by showing him the famous sword of Nathaniel Moon. Sunny and Bajie get to eat, wash up, and rest for a while. Nos is NOT a very nice guy, esp. when it comes to his Dolls. Sunny is surprised to see a girl living there w/ her mother- one of the Dolls. (This girl looks like maybe what Veil could’ve looked like when she was younger- tan skin, black curly hair, watchful eyes). 

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Sunny (Daniel Wu) ready to fight some of the thugs in Nos’ camp.

After seeing Sunny fight, a Doll, Portia (Farzana Dua Elahe- co-starrted in A Hundred Foot Journey), asks Sunny for help. Her young daughter (Emilia) will soon be put to the same type of work, unless she gets her out. She begs Sunny to Kill Nos- she will pay. Sunny refuses, saying that he doesn’t kill for money anymore. 

Episode 6: Leopard Stalks in Snow

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Sunny (Daniel Wu) and M.K. (Aramis Knight) are reunited in Season 2, Episode 6.

I think the MOST crucial moments of this ep are:

  • The (VERY weird) kiss/reunion of Quinn and Lydia- she didn’t stay angry for long!
  • The kiss between Tilda and Odessa (the former Doll rescued by The Widow); NOT sure if Odessa is 100% loyal to this cause (from what she says). 
  • M.K. NOT having his dark powers anymore (or are they under HIS control now)? Later, M.K. and Sunny are reunited in the Christmas-themed park.
  • The Widow turning against Veil- she’s now allied w/ Quinn (against the counsel of Waldo, who was Quinn’s Regent for MANY years).
  • Sunny being knocked out at the end of the ep by one of the Abbotts- the cliffhanger!

Into the Badlands (AMC): Season 2, Episode 3


NOTE: This review contains SPOILERS. New episodes will be airing Sundays (10PM EST) on AMC.

Episode 3: Red Sun, Silver Moon

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Sunny (Daniel Wu) and Bajie (Nick Frost) meet a legendary warrior.

Sunny and Bajie meet a big/tall/imposing former Clipper, Nathaniel Moon (AKA Silver Moon) on a bridge. They are defeated by him, BUT then find themselves under his roof (a VERY old/abandoned church). NOT only is this guy a strong actor (gravitas, anyone?)- he did his OWN stunts during the fight scenes (whoa)! Nathaniel (who’s a BIT of a legend among Clippers) has killed 999 men in battle. His wife and son were killed long ago as revenge against him. Men like them can’t have (normal) lives, he tells Sunny (who doesn’t agree, of course). However, he and Nathaniel have a LOT in common also. 

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Sunny (Daniel Wu) fights Nathaniel Moon (AKA Silver Moon).

Afterbuzz hosts were thinking/hoping that Nathaniel would stay on longer on the series, BUT he has a final battle w/ Sunny. He considers Sunny a worthy opponent; he’s in a league of his own w/ regards to fighting (as was explained by Waldo in a previous ep). 

The significance of the sword being taken by Bajie has more to do with the fact that it is a prestigious weapon that was owned by a legendary clipper, hence will command a great fee/value… -Comment from a viewer (YouTube)

***

MK’s roomie is caught trying to escape, so his powers are taken away. The procedure is performed by those same three robed monks that first captured M.K. in a cold/dirty operating room. M.K. looks horrified- HE may decide to make a run for it, instead of continuing his training w/ The Master.

***

To keep herself (and baby Henry) on Quinn’s good side, she tells him that his brain tumor has NOT changed since last month. She hides the current x-ray, showing him the previous one. Quinn is acting weirder… and weirder- he’s a VERY watchable character still.

Later on, he saves the life of the teenage boy (Cog) who was caught running away. Boy, was I surprised! Quinn sees that this kid is scared of fighting, so he motivates him (playing a father figure), then challenges him to attack. 

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The Widow (Emily Beecham) arrives at The Conclave.

The Widow (AKA Minerva) and Waldo arrive at Ryder’s estate for The Conclave. Afterbuzz hosts wondered: How/when did Waldo ally himself w/ The Widow? It’s a VERY good question; it seems like it happened rather quickly. 

Lang makes for a great grizzled mentor figure, albeit one with a shroud of uncertainty about him. He’s already betrayed one Baron, and there’s no guarantee he isn’t maneuvering Widow to her death by insisting on accompanying her in Tilda’s place. Whatever his motivations, Waldo’s increased role this season is appreciated. -Excerpt from IGN review