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The Witches of Flatbush

Brooklyn, on his damned quarrel smiling,
showed like a rebel’s whore

I saw Macbeth in Brooklyn last night, not in the form of an oddly cloaked apparition on the F train, but as performed by Patrick Stewart at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Stewart has damn fine posture for a man pushing seventy and needs no lesson in elocution. If projection is the opposite of depression, he might be the least depressed person on the planet. Also fine in the production is Michael Feast playing Macduff. Feast seems inherently attuned to the intrinsic power of silence. No words could speak so much when he realizes his entire family has been wiped out.

The dimensions of seeing a Scottish play, written by one fairly prominent englishman and starring another (albeit one of Scottish descent), all performed in a Brooklyn theater, are staggering. So much so that I won’t attempt to tie them all together here. Having spent time in both Scotland and Brooklyn, I can attest to similarities. Both possess a fiercely independent spirit while inevitably drawing on their proximity to larger players. This proximity is relative, however, and herein may lie the difference. The journey from Brooklyn to Manhattan is much shorter than that from Edinburgh to London, and a borough does not a country make. You won’t find too many New Yorkers objecting to the idea that we’re all Americans, but similar arguments might not fly so well in select Scottish pubs. Poorly constructed postulation aside, they are bringing this production of Macbeth to Broadway next month. I feel fortunate for having had the opportunity to see it in Brooklyn, but won’t likely attempt to explain this the next time I’m in Scotland.

On another slightly less convoluted note, I was wondering last night how these actors manage to commit countless lines of Shakespearean verse to memory. After expressing my amazement to a friend, I was reminded of my own faculty in this regard, the primary difference being that I’ve inexplicably chosen to focus on vintage Muhammad Ali rhymes and the words to the Patty Duke Show intro. Such a fine line between clever and stupid. (2/29/08)

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