‘Macbeth’ reviews: Sam Gold’s ‘overthought’ production led by Daniel Craig, Ruth Negga

The final production of the historic 2021-2022 Broadway season reaches back to the early modern era for inspiration with a remounting of William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” Tony-winner Sam Gold (“Fun Home”) once again brings his unique style to the Bard, having previously worked on productions of “King Lear” on Broadway and “Hamlet” and “Othello” Off-Broadway.

Daniel Craig stars as “Macbeth” in his third appearance on Broadway, Ruth Negga makes her Broadway debut as Lady Macbeth, and Tony-nominee Amber Gray returns to the boards as Banquo. “Macbeth” opened at the Longacre Theatre on April 28 for a limited run.

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“Macbeth” received mixed and negative reviews from critics. Jesse Green (New York Times) calls the production “uneasy” and “overthought,” one that feels like “an endless rehearsal rather than a Broadway revival.” He has compliments for the two stars, though, describing Craig as “at his best in physicalizing Macbeth’s transitions,” and Negga as “extraordinary” and “wonderfully physical […] she can seem quicksilver and weightless or, when enraged, menacing and bristly and twice her size.” Green also commends the “superb” costumes by Suttirat Larlarb.

Christian Lewis (Variety) appreciated this mounting less, observing that there “isn’t much substance in this production, which clearly prioritizes an aesthetic and a mood over acting, coherence and Shakespeare’s text,” and describing “Macbeth” as only “marginally” better than Gold’s “King Lear.” Of the acting, Lewis notes that “every single actor is in their own play,” with most of the ensemble “adrift.” They write that Craig “does not capture the transformation of Macbeth into a power-hungry tyrant,” but say that Negga is “the bigger disappointment” because she gives “a generic performance.”

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With these mixed notices, it seems possible “Macbeth” will miss the Best Revival category at the upcoming Tony Awards. A similar fate befell Gold’s production of “King Lear” from 2019, which received muddled notices and picked up only one nomination in Featured Actress for Ruth Wilson. Our users aren’t quite as dour on its prospects, as it currently ranks just one spot out of our predicted five nominees for the top honor. Gold’s conceptual take on the material has him trailing in Best Director in eighth place.

As Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, Craig and Negga could be stronger contenders for nominations. Negga, in particular, ranks third in our odds for Best Actress, trailing only Mary-Louise Parker (“How I Learned to Drive”) and Deirdre O’Connell (“Dana H.”). While seemingly strong – she did earn raves from Green and others, too – her rank might be too high for a production that otherwise received very muted responses. That was the problem for Glenda Jackson in Gold’s “Lear,” who was snubbed for the nomination even though she had just won the Tony the prior year for “Three Tall Women” and delivered a well-received performance in the title role. The same could go for Craig, too, who now ranks in sixth in Best Actor, one spot outside of our anticipated line-up.

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For that same reason, Featured Actress contender Amber Gray’s second career nomination could be in jeopardy, too. At present, our users rank her in fourth place, behind Kenita R. Miller (“for colored girls”), Uzo Aduba (“Clyde’s”), and Phylicia Rashad (“Skeleton Crew”). Gray is certainly a favorite of New York stages in recent years, starring in “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812” and then “Hadestown,” for which she earned her first Tony bid. But without universal raves – Lewis calls her performance “unremarkable” – the category this year is just far too stacked to bet on a contender without a lot of passion.

One spot where Gold’s production could possibly pick up a nomination is for its costume design by Suttirat Larlarb. Larlarb’s costumes earned a lot of critical recognition and she has been working steadily on Broadway with numerous prior credits, so this could be her time to earn her first bid.

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