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Mike Fischer at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel saw 10 shows and has ranked them, less as a reductive prescription than as an invitation to conversation.
1) Macbeth: “one’s deepest and darkest thoughts emerge into what little light there ever is; watching this world unfold, one feels an unsettling, primeval connection to characters who are both a millennium old (this production is set in eleventh-century Scotland) and a reflection of ourselves and our neighbors.”
2) All My Sons: “…marvel anew at how much his play still has to say to us and the way we live now…”
3) A Chorus Line: from the tryout at the top of the show to the symbolic, outward facing circle the ensemble creates near journey’s end, we’re reminded that “love’s what we’ll remember.”
4) Bunny: ” I’m not pulling punches when predicting a rousing success for this darkly funny and also wrenching account of a woman (beautifully played by Maev Beaty) in her late thirties, looking back on a lonely life in which her need to be needed results in numerous sexual relationships.”
The New York Times Charles Isherwood notes Stratford’s unique quality as “a town where actors can afford to live and raise children.”
Isherwood includes brief notes about a few shows, including:
“All My Sons” – Superlative
“Shakespeare in Love” – an ebullient crowd-pleaser
“Macbeth” -Ian Lake giving a galvanizing performance as an unusually young and sexually magnetic Macbeth.
“Night Music” was not a great production, unfortunately, but Cynthia Dale — a veteran of 13 seasons at Stratford — was marvelous in the smallish role of Charlotte.
In a review that includes 5 shows Jones noted:…watching this production shortly after the notorious Brexit, kicking up renewed calls for Scottish independence even as the world stood aghast at what sure looked like a self-ameliorating display of English nativism — full consequences yet unknown — it sent a further frisson through the Festival Theatre. People were gasping in the dark…. In Cimolino’s hands, and in Lake’s central performance alongside Krystin Pellerin’s atypically normal Lady M., it suggests that the twisted sisters are always with us, ready at a moment’s notice to bring toil and trouble, being manifestations of our own weaknesses. It’s as if Cimolino saw the Brexit coming. Maybe Shakespeare saw it too.
In a piece reviewing both Shakespeares Cushman notes: Ian Lake offers us Macbeth as neurotic thug, a blood-soaked soldier transformed into a blood-boltered psychopath…But we never get inside Macbeth’s head, which is where the play’s real action resides…We do, from her very first words, get inside Lady Macbeth’s. To quote her own advice to her husband: Krystin Pellerin looks, and sounds like the innocent flower, there is a serpent underneath.
For a long first act, in spite of Julie Fox’s blasted heath of a set, imaginative lighting from Michael Walton and Thomas Ryder Payne’s frightening soundscape of primordial screams and groans, this “Macbeth” is curiously low-keyed and unpoetic…Lake delivers a compelling performance in Act Two, speaking his remaining soliloquies with poetic ardour. Pellerin, too, as if caught in his poetic fervour, comes into her own, though alas together, they never unleash starry chemistry.
In the opening night audience, I counted at least four actors who have played Macbeth at Stratford, and I imagine the jitters of the debut were felt by Ian Lake has he performed for those of his peers who have worked on the role. It could not have been easy, but Lake’s baptism of fire is over and he can bask in the warmth of a job received by a standing ovation…I imagine there will be school matinees this fall and large numbers of students who will approach their exams with a better understanding and appreciation of a much-criticized work.
That Ian Lake is such a strapping young man and is often shirtless might add to the appeal. That’s brave—it’s Scotland. It’s cold even in August. All the other characters are dressed to the chin in heavy fabrics even when in bed. Macbeth is shirtless. But I digress.
Cimolino and a supremely gifted company serve up one a can’t-miss opening production to Stratford’s 2016 season – strong performances, solid pacing and eye-popping visuals that add up to an intriguing and thoroughly satisfying Macbeth
The pacing was as relentless as it was effective: the first half vanished in the twinkling of a bloody coup. The humorous moments, most notably Cyrus Lane as the Porter, were allowed a few precious moments of self-indulgence; in other hands a risk, but here a masterpiece of balance.
The problem with a young Macbeth couple is that it lessens the urgency of their wish to kill Duncan…The casting of two damp squibs as the most infamous couple in Shakespeare is enough to sink the play even if the rest were fantastic. But the rest is not.
The weird sisters are fiercer than ever in Antoni Cimolino’s season-opening production of Macbeth, which is a bold and brutal take on the Scottish king’s tragic tale …A much needed breath of comic relief comes through in Cyrus Lane’s Porter, who gives the inebriated servant a contemporary, almost Matthew McConaughey-like drawl.
This production is quite simply, and quite effectively, a ghost story…the witches web is laid in such a way as to ensnare a man of action, and that is what Ian Lake gives us in his portrayal of Macbeth.
The first truly satisfying large-scale Macbeth I’ve ever seen – taut, thrilling and, at times, terrifying…Ian Lake, the 32-year-old actor playing the Scottish general who murders his way to the top, gives us a different type of performance than we’re used to seeing at Stratford.
As a self-centred Macbeth, Lake is not afraid of being unlikable and does not try to reach out and win us over.