Early in “Macbeth,” Annika Boras appeals to the spirits to unlock Lady Macbeth’s hidden cruelty and “unsex” her.
The specters don’t comply, thankfully. The last thing this lucid and fast-paced production by New York’s adventurous Theatre for a New Audience needs is more males. Even the weird sisters are played by guys, and creepy guys at that.
Last fall, Boras’s sexy Russian princess heated up Sarah Ruhl’s whimsical “Orlando.” As the power-mad wife of the Scottish usurper, she’s a cerebral siren in a form-fitting black gown. When she lets her braided hair down in Act II and goes off the rails, it’s discomfiting and convincing.
John Douglas Thompson, a gifted young classical actor, delivers an understated Macbeth -- valiant, handy with a sword and quietly introspective when he crumbles. If you’re in the market for a larger-than-life murderous thane, a la Patrick Stewart, you’d better readjust your expectations.
The Duke on 42nd St. theater in Times Square has just 192 seats that wrap around three sides of the stage. It feels like the multiracial cast of 16 is doing Shakespeare in your living room. So able are the actors that you may not notice that at least one, playing different characters, dies twice.
They are in almost non-stop motion under Arin Arbus’s kinetic staging. Marcus Doshi designed the shadowy, ghostly lighting. Julian Crouch did the sets and masks vaguely recalling “Clockwork Orange” that marauders wear when killing Lady Macduff and her son.
“Macbeth” is one of Shakespeare’s shortest plays and this sleek edition sails by faster than most without sacrificing any understanding.
Through April 22 at 229 W. 42nd St. Information: +1-646-223-3010; http://www.tfana.org/season/macbeth/overview. Rating: **1/2
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(Philip Boroff is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)