Tuesday, September 8, 2020

333. MACBETH. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975


Lynn Milgrim, David H. Leary.

MACBETH [Dramatic Revival] A: William Shakespeare; D: Dino DeFillippi; S/C: David Chapman; L: Richard Nelson; P: Cora Gay Carr and Jerry Schlossberg; T: Mercer-O’Casey Theatre (OB): 1/4/71-5/9/71 (132)

This negatively reviewed revival of the Scottish tragedy was originally to have starred married couple Geraldine Page and Rip Torn, but when they left prior to the opening, young unknowns David H. Leary and Lynn Milgrim took their roles. Neither became stars although both maintained careers as actors. In director Dino DeFillippi’s strongly individualistic interpretation, Macbeth was both a participant in the action and an external observer, seated on an upstage throne directing the actors to follow his dictates. The participating Macbeth was played by a second actor (uncredited). Shakespeare’s text was mutilated to fit it into a two-hour show, and numerous light and sound cues turned the performance into a nightmarish vision of the murderer’s hellish existence.

Unrelievedly glum, introspective, “deadly literal, explicit, and witless,” to use Edith Oliver’s words, the drama stirred few critical plaudits. “Shakespeare’s heroes are men in the eye of the tempest,” commented Clive Barnes, “not neurotics contemplating with some inner eye the . . . landscapes of their minds.” Dick Brukenfeld jibed at the men’s black “Courreges-type jumpsuits . . . with bits of net to indicate armor.” These costumes, he felt, were fine for disco dancing but out of line in Macbeth.

Although the production had a surprisingly long run for something so critically panned, the name Dino DeFillippi seems never to have graced a New York theatre program again.