26 January 2012

I saw "Macbeth 1969" last night...

...at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, which is an adaptation of the Shakespearean tragedy into a six-person ensemble  -- always with the Bard's words -- set in a veterans' hospital in middle America during the Vietnam War.  Macbeth and Banquo are wounded soldiers, Macduff a draft dodger, and the three witches, Ladies Macbeth and Macduff, and various other characters (like the Porter), all rolled into a trio of nurses.

While a fascinating, and fairly compact evening of theatre (less than two-hours no intermission), I'm not sure that, as a whole that the play really makes sense.  Under what circumstances (tied to career/personal advancement), would a vet kill a political figure in an American VA hospital?  I just don't get it. 

That said, the play works best quite often when the nurses converse, while doing their nurse-ly duties...or in phone conversations, etc...THEN, the juxtaposition of the familiar with the Shakespearean really illuminates both the language and the actions.  Unfortunately that didn't happen enough for me.  The actor who achieved this synergy most frequently by far throughout was Jackie Chung, the "pregnant Nurse/Lady Macduff/Porter."  A wonderful performance: at times controlled, manic, funny, casual...excellent.

Two (perhaps very nitpicky/idiosyncratic) things popped into my head as the evening progressed:

1) The rant by Sally Kellerman's Hot Lips to Col. Henry Blake (in the wake of the shower incident) from the film M*A*S*H: "This isn't a hospital; it's an insane asylum!"


2) A skill the nurses need to practice more, given that they are asked to make up a hospital bed or two throughout the play is how to do hospital corners!  It's 1969 in a VA hospital; I think good crisp hospital corners would be mandatory.    

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