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Lady killer: ‘Macbeth’ actors swap roles in Shakespearean power couple

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She dares do all that may become a man.

Lady Macbeth will get a manly makeover in a new production of the Scottish play opening in Clinton Hill on Halloween night. In the No Name Collective’s version of the Shakespearean tragedy, the actors playing the eponymous king and his wife will switch roles during the first act. The gender-swapped casting is designed to question gender roles, and to highlight different sides of the legendary lead characters, said one of the play’s leads.

“We have these traditional notions of gender and what is acceptable and what is weakness for a woman and what is weakness for a man, so by changing up the gender, you learn more about every facet of the characters,” said Kellan Peavy, who plays the Scottish king before switching to play his female counterpart.

“Macbeth” tells the story of a 12th-century power couple who use a prophecy from a trio of bearded witches to justify murdering their way to the throne. The switcheroo happens in the first of the play’s five acts, when Lady Macbeth famously implores mystical spirits to “unsex me here,” so that she will have enough masculine toughness to follow through on plans to murder the current king, Duncan. Macbeth ultimately kills Duncan himself, but he requires prodding from his wife, who is often portrayed as a manipulative villain, according to the actress who starts in the role.

“We feel so often that the Macbeths are portrayed almost as caricatures, with Lady Macbeth being almost an evil, dominating, power-hungry force, and with Macbeth being sort of a submissive, weak man,” said Annaliese Kirby. “We want to present them as a more nuanced pair.”

The production will remain true to the text of the play, but the switch in actors allows the audience to look beyond the usual dynamics of gender and power, said the actors, and lets them see the Thane of Glamis and his lady in a new light.

“The transformation also serves to de-emphasize the gender roles,” Peavy said. “By having them switch, you’re also able to not see them as just a man and just a woman, you’re able to have some more broad thoughts about the characters.”

“Macbeth” at the Yard (16 Waverly Ave. between Flushing and Park avenues in Clinton Hill, www.wearethenoname.com). Oct. 31–Nov. 5; Tue–Fri at 7:30 pm, Sat–Sun at 2 pm and 7 pm. $30 ($25 students and seniors).

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Updated 5:53 pm, July 9, 2018
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