I always used to roll my eyes at holidays when my mother would say: "I'm only truly happy when all my children are at home." This past Friday, as I stood in the lobby of the Vivian Beaumont Theater, watching the crowd collect for the first preview of Macbeth, I understood just what Mom meant. All three LCT theaters - including the Claire Tow upstairs with Luce and the Mitzi E. Newhouse downstairs with Domesticated - were humming. Rheba Flegelman, LCT's Beaumont House Manager, later joked, "It had been a while since we'd had a show in the Beaumont. I was wondering if I'd remember exactly how to handle a live audience."
During the convivial post-show dinner at P.J. Clarke's, across from Lincoln Center, a couple of the actors said the same thing. They had been working impressively long days for more than a week, striving to maintain their patience in tech rehearsals, the time of the process when the stage resembles a movie set and performers have to relax in place as lighting cues are set and re-set. "That's the time that we really get to know each other," Bianca Amato, who portrays Lady Macduff, told me a few days before the first performance. "That's when you learn about where somebody grew up or about their kids or about their favorite team."
Team and teamwork may be cliché concepts with regard to an ensemble the size of Macbeth's, but if the kilt fits then wear it. (No kilts in this production.) At the dinner, Jonny Orsini, who shone in LCT's eight-person production ofThe Nance this past spring, told me, "Being with so many actors" - Macbethhas 27 - "is like a team. But it's also like being in the Army. Developing a camaraderie with your fellow soldiers."
I pointed out that Macbeth doesn't use real bullets. Orsini acknowledged my point, adding, "We don't use bullets in this production. But wielding swords and shields can sometimes almost feel like the real heat of battle." I also pointed out that a high proportion of shows in the Beaumont - War Horse, South Pacific - involve the military. "Well, it's a big stage, and battles fill it up and provide high energy for the audience," said Orsini.
At P. J. Clarke's, the high spirits certainly had the feel of warriors fresh from battle and needing to release their remaining steam. Not being an actor, I am always slightly amazed by how high-energy performers can still be after a draining show, not to mention a physically challenging week. I try to remember what Laurence Olivier once remarked in an interview: "It takes at least two hours after a full-length performance to get the adrenalin out of your system."
"We're just so happy to get through the first public performance," said Aaron Krohn, who plays Rosse, and who was about to appear on Sunday's episode of HBO's "Boardwalk Empire." "It's helpful to finally do the play with an audience. They give us so much information."
Brendan Lemon is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com