Weird sisters: Genderbent ‘Macbeth’ comes to the Brick

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Something twisted this way comes!

A gender-swapped production of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” will descend on Williamsburg’s Brick theater starting on Nov. 8, taking the 15th-century play into a post-apocalyptic future of disordered power structures and uncertain gender roles.

“Unsex Me Here: The Tragedy of Macbeth” — which takes its name from Lady Macbeth’s famous line, wishing for the murderous ambition of a man — has cast female and nonbinary actors in male roles, and male actors as women, although each actor’s costumes will match their real-life identity. The gender swap helps viewers meet the characters without gendered expectations, said the director

“One of the things it does is it frees you from all the cliches that this play usually comes with,” said Maggie Cino. For instance, audiences often expect a heightened sexuality from Lady Macbeth, said Cino, but in this play “we’ve been able to get into her vulnerability and her pain.”

The cast features mostly cisgender and transgender women and nonbinary actors, Cino said. Only four characters will be played by cisgender men: the three witches — noted in the play for their beards — and Lady Macbeth.

The production is set in a post-apocalyptic future, in which survivors of climate crisis and a global pandemic have reorganized society and restructured gender roles, Cino said.

“We talked a lot about our invented backstory,” she noted. “One of the things we decided is that not a lot of the cis men survive, and the people left have decided to take on different gender pronouns.”

Cino found plenty in Shakespeare’s Scottish play to support her dystopian vision, including the show’s focus on rapidly changing fair and foul weather, reflecting our present-day struggles with climate change.

“The play is obsessed with the weather,” she said.

For Cino, giving a modern spin to the classic tragedy allowed her to explore aspects of the original text that resonate most with modern viewers.

“I wanted to take those things that are already in the play and explore them in a way that is relevant,” she said.

“Unsex Me Here” at the Brick (579 Metropolitan Ave. between Lorimer Street and Union Avenue in Williamsburg, (718) 907–6189, Nov. 8–23; Wed–Sat at 7 pm. $20.

Reach reporter Rose Adams at or by calling (718) 260–8306. Follow her on Twitter @rose_n_adams
Posted 12:00 am, November 4, 2019
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