THE BLOG
11/27/2013 02:55 pm ET Updated Jan 27, 2014

Ethan Hawke's Macbeth and the Small Engine Repair: Among Men

Ethan Hawke is a manly Macbeth in a leather skirt. The men in "the Scottish play" look good in skirts, even John Glover's "weird sister," with pendulous breasts. At this stylish "Macbeth" directed by Jack O'Brien, you pause wondering: Alexander McQueen? Gaultier? Marc Jacobs? Catherine Zuber's costumes, like the regal sets by Scott Pask, lighting by Japhy Weideman's, the dark, elegant look of this production throughout including the tinged with blood roses (as if competing with the color tones of "Twilight") signal the other worldly and worldly at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater. Hecate is a Goth goddess. When Lady Macbeth (Ann-Marie Duff) asks to be unsexed, any gloss will say, for Elizabethans that means to be released from the cares of women. And indeed, childless, murderous and ambitious, she is in every way manly in that sense except for her pale bony back in strapless. (You could see her as Marin Ireland's Marie Antoinette counterpart; in a recent downtown production, that doomed queen wore red.) Here, in black, this fated queen's as stylish as this production is sleek, and the effect is thrilling, if not exactly like the more classical approaches to this most often produced of the bard's work.

While Ethan Hawke is fine as Macbeth, he uses his movie star voice, one that would work better in the more internal Hamlet; you notice his low musings most by contrast with Brian D'Arcy James' bold Banquo. Hawke's Macbeth, however, is distinguished by an agile physicality, in battle and in his scenes with his Lady, and against his final foe, MacDuff (Daniel Sunjata).

MCC's "Small Engine Repair" ensemble at the Lucille Lortel Theater downtown, featuring the excellent Keegan Allen, James Badge Dale, James Ransone, and the playwright John Pollono, wouldn't be caught dead in those clothes. In a cluttered garage that looks like a man cave, they swap tales of conquest, the kinds of stories men tell in locker rooms. Except that, following the notion that every woman is someone's daughter, sister, or mother, sometimes the things men do simply cross a line. And then revenge must be meted out. A tour de force making most of the full impact of Facebook and social media, you marvel at the play's dexterity in bringing the new technology to the consequences of bad behavior.

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.

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