The first guest I greeted at the opening-night party for Macbeth, held Thursday evening at a festive Avery Fisher Hall, was Nathan Lane. We stood there, sipping our non-inebriating beverages, for only a minute or two: the actor, who had starred in LCT's previous Jack O'Brien enterprise, The Nance, last spring, was telling me about his role-resumption on CBS's "The Good Wife" and how he will reprise another part, Hickey in The Iceman Cometh, in spring 2015 at BAM. As Hickey gives perhaps the most famous toast to sobriety in American literature, Lane's news was the ironic cue for the entrance into our conversation of Douglas Carter Beane, the writer of The Nance.
Beane was drinking some concoction with a name I've criminally forgotten. "No bartender," he told Lane and me, "ever knows the recipe for it, so they have to whip out their smart phones and look it up." He added: "Of course, these days no bartender under 60 knows the recipe for a Manhattan - they have too look that one up, too!"
As the Lane-Lemon-Beane chit-chat wound down, more party guests had streamed across the poolside way from Lincoln Center Theater and up the stairs to the second floor of Avery Fisher, where tables were set for a Cawdor-copious feast. Partygoers were greeted with a choice of libations. The most theme-appropriate appeared to have steam coming off it, as if ladled from the boiling cauldron the witches stir in the play. One of the weird sisters, John Glover, who speaks the play's bawdy speech about the effects of drink on sex, passed up the Witches Brew, telling me, "I'm in civilian clothes now."
The same could be said for most other guests, although the preponderance of plaid - a bow tie here, a scarf there - suggested that not everyone had shed the Scottish motif entirely as they crossed the plaza. Paul Smithyman, LCT's associate production manager, would have won Best Costume, had there been such an honor: he wore a kilt.
An actor hailing from Scotland, James McAvoy, eschewed any attire that might be whipped up by a Highland gale. "New York is too cold for that," he told me, as he entered the party fray with his wife, Anne-Marie Duff, who is a radiant Lady Macbeth in the show that was being celebrated. I politely refrained from riposting that I had been to Scotland in January, and that the wet cold there made me understand why single-malt was invented in his homeland.
To be honest, I didn't notice a lot of Scotch being downed as I made my way around the party crowd. There was lots of lager - beer-drinking seems always to be endemic among large, male-dominated LCT productions that involve battle - and the occasional red-wine aficionado: Daniel Sunjata, the show's hearty Macduff, was surrounded by admirers as he sipped what appeared to be a claret.
In Macbeth, the title character has several catalog speeches - the one about dogs always strikes me during performance. Yet my list of opening-night revelers, and what they were imbibing, cannot aspire to completeness. I failed to notice what such accomplished actors as Stockard Channing and Josh Hamilton - both of them veterans of O'Brien-directed shows at LCT - were enjoying.
In any event, the party was mostly an occasion for the cast to enjoy a much-deserved toast after many hard weeks of rehearsal and previews. These actors are a grateful bunch who genuinely like each other. At the party, I heard only one mild complaint. One of the younger performers bellied up to the bar and asked for a Scotch. When the bartender reached for the Dewar's, the actor said, "Is that all you've got? Is it even brewed in Scotland?"
Of course it is: Dewar's has a long, authentic provenance. It was only when I Googled the brand, however - as if I was one of those whippersnapper bartenders Douglas Carter Beane had referenced earlier - that I learned Dewar's owns five whisky distilleries in Scotland - Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Craigellachie, Royal Brackla - and Macduff. And, yes, there is even a wee amount of spirit from that last plant sold as Macduff Single Cask.
Should Macbeth ever be done at LCT in the future, I hope the opening-night party stocks a few bottles on the top shelf.
Brendan Lemon is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com