Macbeth in Manhattan
(American, 1999, 97 minutes, color, 35mm)
Preceded by the short film WOMAN FOUND DEAD IN ELEVATOR
MACBETH IN MANHATTAN
The following is a capsule review by Sarah Hepola that appeared in the Austin Chronicle:
A beloved leader; a scheming, jealous second-in-command; an ambitious wife pushed to mental collapse; a trio of gossiping harpies ... the characters in a famous tragedy or the real-life cast of a Broadway play? In Greg Lombardo's crafty, enjoyable comedy, life imitates art when things offstage during the rehearsal of the famously cursed "Scottish play" start looking suspiciously like the show itself. Theatre lovers will delight in the production details Lombardo so cleverly imitates, from the interaction among the catty cast to the floppy, finger-combed hair of the director. Even the dark, Peter Hall-ish production of Macbeth mounted by the cast is surprisingly sharp. As in the similarly premised Shakespeare in Love, a good knowledge of the script on which the film is based will enhance the viewing experience but is probably not necessary for enjoying the film. Although paralleling the play's narrative structure leads the film to a fairly unbelievable ending, Lombardo has nevertheless pulled off the unlikely by digging inside perhaps the bleakest of all of Shakespeare's plays and not only making us think, but also making us laugh.
The following is excerpted from a review that appears on ChristianCritic.com
Shakespeare's Macbeth has all the elements that arrest our attention. Ambition, greed, power... As a matter of fact, it is very similar to the behind the scenes action of a Broadway play.
Such is the premise of Greg Lombardo's inventive new film, Macbeth in Manhattan, an entry in the 1999 Florida Film Festival. A new production of Shakespeare's classic is being mounted in NYC and all is not running smoothly.
To begin with, just before the first day of rehearsals, Max, the leading actor, has been informed that he is being replaced. Once cast as the title character, he is now being offered the lesser role of MacDuff in order to make room for William, a handsome, if somewhat untalented star of TV soap operas, to play the lead.
If that weren't bad enough, Max's fiancee, Claudia, who will be playing Lady Macbeth, starts falling for the well-known hunk. Losing a starring role and a fiancee to the same pretty face is enough to make any man start thinking about revenge.
But the show must go on. And so Richard, the director, continues to push his actors through their fears, anxieties and idiosyncrasies that make theater people so colorful.
On top of this we are reminded of the curse of the Scottish play. Actors have been known to die. Horrible accidents occur on stage. And one must never mention the name of the play inside a theater.
Director Greg Lombardo, who co-wrote the script with Joe Gagen, has been somehow able to take one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies and turn it into a contemporary dark comedy, with just enough mystery to keep things interesting.
The film is quite enjoyable if one is familiar with the Shakespearean classic. But if you're not, there's no need to fret. The filmmakers have brilliantly provided a modern day chorus in the guise of actor Harold Perrineau Jr., a street-smart black man who takes on many roles during the course of the film in order to give his commentary on what is happening in the Macbeth plot and keep us up to speed.
David Lansbury is especially good as Max, the serious thespian who keeps losing roles to the overrated soap star, William, played with precision by Nick Gregory. Gloria Reuben is Claudia, who mirrors Lady Macbeth's subconscious guilt and remorse over actions and decisions made. The triad of witches (Natalie Zea, Carolyn Neff, and Tertia Lynch) are appropriately sensual and seductive. John Glover is well cast as the oft-bemused and certainly exasperated director. Much of the humor found in the film comes from his reaction to the events transpiring on and off the stage.
Mr. Lombardo manages to intermix shots of NYC, the dreary rehearsal processes, and, when the actors are really "feeling" the moment, we see them in full Elizabethan garb in the appropriate setting for the scene, as their imagination transports them….
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