I recognized Alan Cumming’s face
…on the marquee above the Barrymore Theater. To see him as Macbeth seemed like a treat.
Crowds of people waited outside, buzzing in and out of the entrance. A girl posed under the marquee while her friend took her photo, and I smiled; I could tell she was excited to be here. In fact, everyone looked delighted to be here. I can’t say I have the words to describe how wonderful it all felt, but you know what feeling I’m talking about, when you’re waiting to go into the theater. Something about being surrounded by diverse people of a variety of age groups makes the experience of going to the theater electric. I wasn’t surprised to see the many elderly viewers, all dressed elegantly. It was a relief to see young (and chic) viewers like myself, talking about their favorite Broadway shows as they waited in line.
It’d been a while since I’d been to a Broadway show, and I most certainly missed the burgundy seats.
I sat right at the corner of the row. It was my first time on this level and I was stoked by the vantage point. I could see the entire stage perfectly from my seat. The stage was set like the room of a modern day mental hospital; divided by aged stretchers, lime green dividers, pearly white tiles, observation glass and surveillance cameras, the whole set captured the eerie and uncomfortable vibe of a mental hospital.
Alan Cumming entered the stage and the audience clapped upon arrival. After watching only two other cast members, I had the impression that this was certainly going to be a one-man show.
From the moment he began, to act every character in the play of Macbeth, I couldn’t help but sit there in awe of his performance. The way he switched from persona to persona felt seamless. His accents added to the life of the characters (and to the humor of his performance). The moment he began to play the role he did not stop, it was like the person in the mental hospital wasn’t even aware of what he was saying or doing. It was hard to tell if he was supposed to be one person with the personality of all the characters (in Macbeth), or if he was supposed to be all of them at the same time.
But, if he was supposed to be all of them, then whose body was it?
At times, I couldn’t understand if he was hallucinating the presence of all the other characters and speaking for them without realizing it himself, for there were times that he interacted with figures that were not on the stage, but appeared on the television, or if he was he was just acting out the events of the play to tell us something.
The entire time I watched I not only tried to discern what he was speaking, but tried to follow the story of the play and what his psychosis had to do with the plot of the play, but I couldn’t arrive at any conclusions. There were a lot of strange plot holes, and a lot of scenes that didn’t seem to have anything to do with the show as a whole. I couldn’t understand why the doctors were observing him, mostly because they appeared so spontaneously and inconsistently that their presence seemed more like pure coincidence than actual observation.
It was really frustrating trying to follow what was really going on. I looked around to see if I was the only one with an obvious expression of confusion painted on my face, and it turns out I wasn’t alone. I saw a lot of perplexed expressions behind me and down the row. My level of frustration with the strange plot and his non-stop enacting of the characters’ in the play made it really difficult for me to empathize with any of the characters he attempted to play.
After the show, I descended the stairs and felt a looming sense of confusion in the audience behind me. It was rather silent, so I could hear a girl rationalize her experience by claiming that this is why she loves Macbeth, because “there are just so many ways to go with it.” I could appreciate that rationalization.