Meet the Macbeths, that chic power couple from Fifth Avenue (or is it Kennebunkport?). Right now they're trying to keep their equilibrium in director Moisés Kaufman's polite, careful, and sophisticated production of Shakespeare's tragedy at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.
As portrayed by Liev Schreiber and Jennifer Ehle, this gorgeous First Family of Scotland dares anyone to oppose them. From "There's no art/To find the mind's construction in the face" to "False face must hide what the false heart doth know," they are dissembling politicians to the core.
The models are obviously George and Laura Bush; as the Macbeths, their sense of entitlement turns them into mocking, phony, and condescending leaders. The banquet scene, for instance, is played as much for laughs as horror, with Lady Macbeth doing her best to make light of hubby's visions. In the sleepwalking scene, Ehle seems not terrified but distracted. Elsewhere, she's all perfectly Prada.
Schreiber, a great actor, commands as a man who, losing his cool, becomes more and more primal, digging down to emotions that his position and upbringing have stifled. Though visibly tired and weighted with fears, at the end he's overwhelmed not by conscience but by forces he himself has unleashed.
The war analogies are apparent. The audience enters to rumbling sounds and a garbled political speech. Derek McLane's rubble-strewn set, David Lander's murky lighting, Michael Krass' lived-in costumes, and Peter Golub's driving music reinforce the inevitability that a country so run by bullies will soon sink "beneath the yoke." In contrast, the Macbeth castle is an elegant anachronism amidst the surrounding destruction.
Among many lending able support are Joan MacIntosh, Ching Valdes-Aran, and Lynn Cohen as the ghostly, fatigues-wearing weird sisters; Herb Foster as Duncan; Jacob Fishel as Malcolm; Teagle F. Bougere as Banquo; and Sterling K. Brown as Macduff.
Presented by the Public Theater at the Delacorte Theater, Central Park, NYC. June 28-July 9. Tue.-Sun., 8:30 p.m.; also Mon., July 3; no performance Tue., July 4. (212) 539-8650 or www.publictheater.org. Casting by Jordan Thaler and Heidi Griffiths.