In These Plays About Couples, Hell Is Other People

LONDON — The underworld comes with melodic invention to spare, not less than if the Broadway-bound musical “Hadestown,” stopping in on the Nationwide Theater right here by Jan. 26, is any gauge. Anaïs Mitchell’s folks opera catches the ear from the primary notes and leaves you looking forward to a second or third hear, even when the lyrics descend towards the banal.

Ms. Mitchell’s supply is the time-honored story of Orpheus and Eurydice, who turn into simply one in all many pairings (not all of them romantic) coming to grief on the London stage simply now.

ImageFrom left, Patrick Web page as Hades, Amber Grey as Persephone and Mr. Carney in “Hadestown.”CreditHelen Maybanks

The spin in “Hadestown” is to wrest the parable away from the opera home (Monteverdi and Gluck each composed Orpheus-led operas) and provides it a sinuous, hipster vibe. That explains the presence of the shiny-suited, übercool narrator, Hermes (the Broadway veteran André De Shields); a fresh-faced, guitar-strumming Orpheus (Reeve Carney, who appeared on Broadway in “Spider-Man: Flip Off the Darkish”); and a vibrant, jeans-wearing Eurydice, performed with vocal bravura by Eva Noblezada, final 12 months’s Tony-nominated main woman from the revival of “Miss Saigon.”

You’d assume such acquainted narrative terrain may push everybody concerned to search out the idiosyncratic amid the generic. However for all one of the best efforts of the director Rachel Chavkin, “Hadestown” settles for one sung musing about nature after one other (rivers one minute, flowers the subsequent) and a chorus for the supposedly impressed Orpheus — “la la la” — that makes you marvel simply how inspiring a lover he would show.

Growling notes of dissent are sounded by Patrick Web page, a second “Spider-Man” alum, whose Hades guidelines over an Underworld that strikes many recognizable Trump-era notes, although you need to marvel why the Underworld incorporates a wall. And provided that Orpheus is heard to lament the “chilly and darkish” world aboveground, are issues actually that a lot worse within the realm under?

Picture“Hadestown” was written by Anaïs Mitchell and directed by Rachel Chavkin.CreditHelen Maybanks

A parable of doubt, the present forestalls such questions with Hermes’ last admonition to the viewers: “Don’t ask why, don’t ask how.” Let’s simply hope these concerned in “Hadestown” ask themselves not less than a couple of powerful questions earlier than succumbing to the siren music of Broadway.

There’s not a lot love misplaced between the soul-ravaged protagonist and his politically rabid spouse in “Macbeth,” the Shakespeare tragedy that has had a tricky time on the British stage this 12 months. It has now returned for yet one more airing, this time inside the candlelit environs of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe. (A part of a so-called “Bold Fiends” season of performs that additionally consists of Marlowe’s “Physician Faustus,” the manufacturing will run in repertory by Feb. 2.)

The drawing card on this event is the coupling within the principal roles of the husband-and-wife staff Paul Prepared and Michelle Terry, who can also be the theater’s creative director and proved a commendably agile and lucidly spoken Hamlet on the Globe primary stage this summer time. Forged because the famously sleepwalking woman whose ambition drives her husband ahead and derails her personal warped psyche, Ms. Terry communicates a way of impatient function: There’s clearly no Plan B for this apprentice to homicide who watches aghast as her husband’s thoughts begins to fray — just for hers quickly to observe go well with.

ImageMichelle Terry as Girl Macbeth and Paul Prepared as Macbeth on the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s GlobeCreditJohan Persson

The claustrophobia of the Wanamaker abets the horror-show theatrics of the director Robert Hastie, who at varied factors plunges the viewers into darkness whereas fearsome noises pierce the air.

Alas, all of the aural results on the earth can’t compensate for what feels right here like an important absence on the play’s core. Briskly spoken although Mr. Prepared is, we by no means really feel Macbeth’s give up to nihilism. Certainly, because the gathering clamor intensifies, any fast connection it might need to the work itself recedes. Macbeth rages towards sound and fury signifying nothing, and this manufacturing is aware of whereof its title character speaks.

No less than the language in “Macbeth” can’t assist however scintillate. That’s greater than could be stated for the ceaselessly arch, contrived back-and-forth that makes up the making an attempt 90 minutes of “Switzerland,” the two-hander from Joanna Murray-Smith on the Ambassadors Theater by Jan. 5. That is the second latest London outing for the Australian author, whose (a lot better) “Honour” was simply seen in a starry revival on the Park Theater in north London.

ImageCalum Finlay as Edward Ridgeway and Phyllis Logan as Patricia Highsmith in “Switzerland” on the Ambassadors Theater.CreditNobby Clark

The plot right here incorporates a kind of last-minute swerves supposed to trigger an consumption of breath that as an alternative left me rolling my eyes, not least as a result of it manages someway to look each preposterous and predictable. Suffice it to say that in telling of an encounter by the expatriate American thriller author Patricia Highsmith (of “The Proficient Mr. Ripley” fame) towards the tip of her life with a customer named Edward Ridgeway, who is probably not what he appears, “Switzerland” elides artwork and life in order to make Highsmith the sufferer of her personal literary creation. However I shouldn’t say any greater than that.

“Switzerland” permits for a distinction between this most famously impartial of European locales and the ceaselessly downbeat, dyspeptic Highsmith, who holds forth on any variety of topics — all of which immediate her derision or scorn or worse.

Phyllis Logan, the Scottish actress greatest recognized of late for enjoying Mrs. Hughes on “Downton Abbey,” performs this Texas-born malcontent with a sustained misanthropy subsequent to which Calum Finlay’s peppy Edward appears a bit dim. (The Rodgers and Hammerstein music “Comfortable Speak” is invoked a number of occasions, presumably to lend an ironic gloss to the enterprise at hand.) By the point this bizarre mating dance devolves into such barked broadsides as “It was an existence however was it a life?,” it’s possible you’ll effectively really feel that Ms. Logan’s perpetual scowl is spreading throughout the footlights to incorporate the viewers. Or that point spent within the firm of one other isn’t all the time time effectively spent.

Hadestown. Directed by Rachel Chavkin. Nationwide Theater/Olivier, in repertory by Jan. 26.
Macbeth. Directed by Rob Hastie. Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, in repertory by Feb. 2.
Switzerland. Directed by Lucy Bailey. Ambassadors Theater, by Jan. 5.

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