Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' finds its pop-culture moment

The play is more than 400 years old and we all know how it ends, but suddenly William Shakespeare's "Macbeth" is back in vogue.

The Scottish tragedy is enticing a number of actors ranging from young to the far side of middle age to play the murderous Thane of Cawdor. On stage, Ethan Hawke is to headline a new production of the play scheduled to open Nov. 21 at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theatre.

Hawke follows Alan Cumming who brought his experimental "Macbeth" to Broadway last season. Cumming's version depicted the title character as a mental patient who enacts most of the roles in the play.

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In Britain, Kenneth Branagh recently starred in the play for the first time at the Manchester Festival. The production, which Branagh co-directed, is to be broadcast to cinemas in the U.S. this fall, and is scheduled to come to New York next year.

James McAvoy (who, like Cumming, is Scottish) is currently appearing in the play in a West End production that has been a popular draw at the box office.

A planned movie version of "Macbeth" is also in the works with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. The play has been adapted for the movies before, most notably by Orson Welles and Roman Polanski. (Akira Kurosawa's "Throne of Blood" is loosely based on the play.)

On Broadway, actors who have played the Scottish usurper include Patrick Stewart, Kelsey Grammer, Christopher Plummer and Michael Redgrave.

Other famous interpretations include Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh in a much-lauded 1955 production; and Ian McKellen and Judi Dench in a staging in 1976 by the Royal Shakespeare Company that was filmed for television. 


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