2227/The Scottish Play

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The Scottish Play
Date of Scene: 25 June 2020
Location: Central Park
Synopsis: Shakespeare in the Park! A very intense performance of Macbeth is given as audience members weigh in on the idea of power corrupting.
Cast of Characters: Marcus Xin-Murdoch, Mary Jane Watson, Illyana Rasputina, Alanna Lyons, Natasha Cranston

Marcus Xin-Murdoch has posed:
The sun is lowering itself onto the horizon, city haze adding a nicely bloody tint to the light that slants through the trees and into the Delacorte Theater. Whether through canny direction or aesthetic serendipity, the coming evening gives a sanguine cast to the company's open-air performance of 'Macbeth'. The amphitheatric seating is packed and playbills being poured over, a free performance always making for strong attendance. The play has yet to begin, and there is still time to murmur and speculate about the adaptation decisions based on the set design, or to excitedly note that this or that actor was in something you've already seen or, alternately, that you've never seen this or that actor before. The hubbub is comfortable, the air balmy.

Mary Jane Watson has posed:
Mary Jane wasn't expecting to be Lady MacBeth. Seriously, she was the understudy! But, well, the proper actress had a bit of a nervous breakdown, so MJ was called up. A bit young, perhaps, to be MacBeth's wife, but she definitely is eager to show what she can do.

But first, the classic opening, as the play opens with thunder and lightning. The witches are traditional witches in that sense, the play not deviating from the source of Scotland in this specific instance.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
A balmy midsummer night eve, and Illyana wears a simple circle of flowers over her loose hair and a pale, flowy sundress with some kind of colourful embroidery on the hems. Perhaps the irony of this cannot be overstated in any other fashion, except she is watching That Play rather than participating in a cult massacre, or something about Oberon and Titania making mischief with mortals. No Puckish glee here, though somehow she has managed to secure a seat for herself without anyone pushing in too close. Possibly because being a Russian icicle is alarming, or because one hopeful bee courts the tiger lily perched atop pale gold hair. He really is a hopeful bee, snuggled up for a rest inside the trumpeting flower.

It's a very odd departure from the gloomy Scottish environs created from an actual hunk of wood serving as the woodlands, the clawing boughs reaching for the audience. Woven wires give the tree an unnerving halo that catches the bloody hue of falling twilight, bringing those torturous, spreading branches to vivid life. Perhaps there's a reasonable comparison to concertina wire running through a forest, to trees that hunger for human flesh. The trio cavorting around a smoking cauldron certainly bring the impression to life, stylistically horrifying, jerking motions raised with the thunderous vibratos rolling from speakers hidden among the seating to help even those far back on the lawn hear the performance. It fairly might be said Illyana isn't terrified.

Alanna Lyons has posed:
Alanna's seated somewhere near the middle, nearish to a side aisle. It's not that she's come late for the performance, nor is it that she's uninterested. The side just happens to be the most convenient place to slip away from if necessary. Hopefully it wouldn't be a thing to worry about, but it was simply a fact of life. Her eyes, for a moment, are on the playbill in her hands, studying it for familiar names or interesting tidbits before she looks towards the stage. "I always look forward to summer. These are lovely," she remarks to her companion seated to her right. "I like it when they get a little experimental with it."

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    When the weather is this nice, Capoeira practice traditionally ends at sunset - or at least when the sun reaches the skyline. The players salute each other, the circle breaks up, and everyone gathers their and instruments and go their separate ways. "Jenny" pulls a pair of running shoes out of her bag and puts them on before leaving the grass, then looks around.

    "Miss Cranston" has a board meeting tonight, but she's acted the responsible CEO a bit too much lately and she does have a reputation to maintain. "Nat" could go clubbing, but she'd already been out yesterday, and sometimes disappearing without anyone knowing where you've gone works even better than being seen at a club... Plus, as she walks down the path she hears music coming from the direction of the open-air theatre.

    Jenny smiles to herself and sets off, sliding into the crowd with natural ease and finding a good spectating spot, standing near the back.

Marcus Xin-Murdoch has posed:
There is a hush as the play begins, and a sense of tense excitement as the witches appear. This is a well-loved element of a well-loved play, and the sinking deep into the source gives them a chthonic persuasiveness. Those susceptible to this depiction of the arcane are chilled. Those who appreciate an expressionistic tableaux are impressed. The eerie mood is set, the traditional tinged with intensity.

Of the two groups, Marcus Xin-Murdoch is more of the second camp, his expression a slightly furrowed one of thoughtfulness, not something that reads, at first glance, like enjoyment. But he's leaned forward in his seat, intent, engaged. His brow clears only once he's addressed by the woman to his left - one Alanna Lyons - and his frown is replaced with a smile. "So do I," he says, voice pitched low, leaning close. "Seeing what new things can be done with such old words."

Mary Jane Watson has posed:
Banquo and MacBeth seem like old friends, true companions that would be together through thick and thin... and then the Witches appear, and the seeds are sown for MacBeth's ambition. A tiny seed, to be sure, but one that will likely bear a terrible crop when it comes to fruition. Particularly given the contrast between the prophecies they have for MacBeth... and the modest one for Banquo, in comparison.

MJ remains to the side, preparing herself for going onstage as she gets into her own character... it's one thing to be the understudy, and quite another to actually do it, after all.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
Conviction counts for everything. Power acts on belief; it doesn't necessarily require a communally understood set of means. The wild, harsh gesticulations of the witches are no dance on a club floor or music video, but something far more primal and unsettling. Key to the act, in fact. Three women raise rigid limbs and arch, backs stiff and stretched out. They claw at their tattered hair and their humble, many-layered garments. Cloaks shift and swirl in a melange of forested shades, stained by the detritus of their art. One woman, the middle, drops to the ground beside the cauldron and convulsed while the other two moan and snarl unfathomable syllables. "Show me! Show me! Here we bid you come!" Atonal words melt into the cacophonous ditty being created by hooded figures -- the chorus -- shaking tin tubes and bone rattles, giving depth and presence to the thunder rolling away. The fallen woman rakes gouges into the dirt-strewn floorboards, spittle on her lips. Lost in their rapture, the other two keen and cajole to the heavens. "Wrecked as homeward ye must come! A drum, a drum!"

They sweep aside like specters, flashing into the forest of unseen faces and fell limbs of their clearing. Drumbeats take up the pulse, giving Banquo and Macbeth their due, Duncan in the wings with his procession to make his flourishing entry before a cost of death and nobility are aired in kind.

Illyana ignores the bee buzzing sleepily around the floral chaplet, her head tilted a fraction to really catch the sonorous notes of complicated Shakespearean English. It's not the most exciting thing, watching events, but the cold-eyed scrutiny by the Russian scion might be of a professional sort. She's surely not enamoured of politics or witchcraft; the brief trace of a smirk is enough. Braggadoccio in a swaggering outfit -- no kilts here -- doesn't seem to impress her, but she glances over the crowd briefly to see their results. Her comfy spot on the blanket leaves room to stretch her legs out, too. Helpful, being close to the front. Helpful if someone wants a spot to sit nearer up.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    The Delacorte only has a limited amount of seating and New Yorkers always show up en masse for a free performance. Getting a good view from the back is tricky, and Jenny prefers to yield her seat to people who can't handle standing for more than an hour. Fortunately, the wall behind her is a convenient height; two steps for momentum, a jump for starting altitude, pushing off the railing and turning in the same motion, and before anyone can yell at her asking what the hell she's doing she's perched on the wall, legs dangling down as she settles in to watch the performance.

    It's an interesting question: to what degree are the Witches to blame for what's going to happen? Certainly, they 'sowed the seed' of MacBeth's ambitions, but he's still the one who chose -- or will choose, the play's still starting -- to act on that ambition and commit his crimes... And who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

    The smile that plays along Jenny's lips for a moment is very much not that of the young girl enjoying her evening out, but something far older... But it fades as quickly as it appeared, and she leans forward on her elbows to watch the play.

Alanna Lyons has posed:
"Finding new meaning in old words is always refreshing," Alanna says, keeping her voice low so as not to disturb anyone nearby. She glances towards Marcus for a moment. "These stories always find some way to be applicable today. The themes are ageless." She turns her attention from Marcus back to the stage for the moment. It's certainly an enjoyable experience, at the very least. "Those witches sure are something," she murmurs, though that bit's mostly to herself.

Marcus Xin-Murdoch has posed:
Marcus rubs his jaw, pitched back into thoughtfulness by Alanna's assertion. As fate and free will are woven into an inextricable tapestry on the stage, as the ambiguities of the tale emerge amidst the evocative visuals and the words into whose meter you slowly descend - as all of the elements come together, he watches. When he speaks again, it is without taking his eyes off the stage: "Here's a query for your royal highness- what makes a desire for power corrupt, as opposed to just or necessary? Can there be such a thing as a just desire for power, or is the desire itself part of what makes it corrupt?"

Mary Jane Watson has posed:
The witches depart, the fog and shadow a deliciously creepy effect as if to make one wonder if they were ever really there. As Banquo and MacBeth make their way to King Duncan, who immediately praises them, and invites himself to stay with MacBeth at Inverness. And then proclaims his son Malcolm, as his heir.

Such gall! Such impertience! Is it a wonder that MacBeth seizes the ambition that was placed within his heart? A message is sent ahead to Lady MacBeth, informing her of all that has transpired...

And Mary Jane walks onto the stage, clad in a period piece of red and black, her manner devious and filled with restrained rage on behalf of her husband. She reads the missive from MacBeth, then goes into her own speech,

Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be
What thou art promised: yet do I fear thy nature;
It is too full o' the milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way: thou wouldst be great;
Art not without ambition, but without
The illness should attend it: what thou wouldst highly,
That wouldst thou holily; wouldst not play false,
And yet wouldst wrongly win: thou'ldst have, great Glamis,
That which cries 'Thus thou must do, if thou have it;
And that which rather thou dost fear to do
Than wishest should be undone.' Hie thee hither,
That I may pour my spirits in thine ear;
And chastise with the valour of my tongue
All that impedes thee from the golden round,
Which fate and metaphysical aid doth seem
To have thee crown'd withal.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    "It depends on the why," comes a soft voice from behind and above them, where a young woman with dyed-blue hair is perched on the wall. "If you want power just for power's sake -- yeah. That'll always go wrong, because you don't know when to /stop/, and you'll just keep reaching for more power whichever way you can get, and you cross the line without realizing it."

    She shrugs. "The 'just' way? You have to want something else first, and then you can want the power to accomplish it. That way you can still know when to /stop/."

    She smiles at both of them, then turns her attention back to the play as Lady MacBeth takes the stage and immediately dominates the scene...

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
There's something to the skimmed language and the building rhythm. Even those without a grasp on an older form of English can find themselves falling into the action, carried off by the forceful soliloquies and dramatic proclamations. The Bard is immortal for a reason, his words ringing with human emotion and human power, the very day to day language preferred by most New Yorkers peppered with his idioms and visuals. Illyana looks back, poppies brushing in copper abandon against the rampart of her cheekbone, perhaps catching the filterings of Marcus and Alanna's conversation.

An amused quirk of her brows lifts them slightly to the question. "Both," she replies in that laconic fashion, then turns her gaze back to the stage to see what mischief transpires.

MJ, of course, to whom the delivery of those fabled lines and imprecations demands answer. An answer she shall have, the swell of the act earning barbed repartee from her companions on the stage.

Alanna Lyons has posed:
Alanna's gaze drifts towards Jenny, her lips curving upward into a smile. "I couldn't have said it better myself," she agrees, looking between her and Marcus. "It's all about motive. The trick is, though, once you have power... even when you're doing it for good reasons, you have to be careful that it doesn't corrupt you. It's very much a temptation... I've seen it wreck even the most altruistic people. When you have the freedom to act with little to no consequences, it would be hard to resist exercising even a small bit of that freedom."

Her gaze returns to the stage for a moment, though she gives Marcus a little nudge. "I do hope you're not considering murdering someone to become king, even for good reason. I know a good lawyer but that's a tricky argument to win."

Marcus Xin-Murdoch has posed:
"Kingship sets a problematic precedent," Marcus says, as if this were the most compelling reason to *not* stage a coup. "I don't so much mind the killing the king part, it's the taking his place that I take issue with."

The question is in the air, and carries further than he'd intended, amplified, perhaps, by the thematic sympathy the play is generating. Marcus glances at the sudden symposium, the contrast between the woman with hair dyed blue, and her copper-haired counterpart. It makes him, for a moment, feel like he's in a play himself. His lips quirk in a smile, not without a touch of caution. "We're close to having an impromptu seminar," he says, "which I admit I don't mind..."

The play commands his full attention again, as Lady Macbeth enters the stage. He's silent for the spell of her speech; if anyone can compete with the witches for their iconic power, it's the bloody-handed lady. "A young Lady MacBeth-" he notes, "I like that. A strong choice. Really shifts one's instinctive perspective on her violence."

Mary Jane Watson has posed:
While MacBeth may have the ambition, it's clear that Lady MacBeth has the pride for them both, as she does not have time for his ditherings about what might be right. Clearly, he is the hero, he is the destined one, and he, not that fool son of Duncan's, should be the heir and king of Scotland.

Was the hope drunk
Wherein you dress'd yourself? hath it slept since?
And wakes it now, to look so green and pale
At what it did so freely? From this time
Such I account thy love. Art thou afeard
To be the same in thine own act and valour
As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that
Which thou esteem'st the ornament of life,
And live a coward in thine own esteem,
Letting 'I dare not' wait upon 'I would,'
Like the poor cat i' the adage?

And when King Duncan arrives, she does her best to be a dutiful hostess, but the audience can clearly see the double meaning of her words, the venom hidden within them at denying her love's station and rightful place. Vengeance shall be felt for this, on the altar of her ambition, and to a lesser extent MacBeth's own.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
"Mistakes by a king are paid in blood. The Crown falls heavier with even a small misstep," says Illyana dryly. Her Russian accent slinks across every word, rubbing up against the ankles of her consonants in particular. A fell drumbeat to the rising tide of troubles that build in the scenes of the first act, pincers closing in on a troubled kingdom. "Is the penalty worthy of leading a man to his death with a smile, calumny on her lips and deceit on her palms? Her husband has the power of choice. He could be deterred from the act. Conflict rages in his soul, and yet the want for power and the sting of her curses drive him to the crime."

A crime being poured out by the man stalking around the stage in fitful circles, wringing his hands, every inch the soul in torment. He cringes away from his wife and yet, when she faces away from him, he turns to MJ with plaintive desire and uncertainty writ plain on his face. In his bowed shoulders and stooped back are the burdens of anguish. As she spurs him on, he stands straighter, pained: "Prithee, peace!"

A cry of men assailed everywhere, and women too, the unrest in his mind and soul bringing the words out as a bark, a sharp complaint rather than the soft plea it could be. "I dare do all that may become a man!" His gestures are wide, flamboyant, fearful with audacity when confronting the impossible.

"Who dares do more is none,
What beast was't, then--"

He doubles over, hands on his knees, as if sickened by his own retort. Shallow breaths, a liar.

The chorus hisses.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    Jenny ponders that, her eyes still on Lady MacBeth's performance, nodding almost absently. "Rather than middle-aged and greedy, grabbing for what she can get before her star fades, she's young and hungry, climbing up the social ladder over everyone else's back and to perdition with whoever gets in her way... Yeah, I see what you mean. It changes the power dynamic a bit, too. Less forceful domineering, more polite venom..."

    She idly kicks one dangling foot, watching the interplay. "It's interesting, the way it diminishes MacBeth's own agency, making him almost a victim of circumstance rather than someone deciding for himself -- he certainly wants to think of himself like that, because that makes it easier for him to excuse what he's about to do. After all, if she made him do it, it can't be his fault..."

    She sits up a bit straighter again as the man himself comes on stage, complaining about his wife in one breath, lusting after her in the next. "... Nice. Playing a weak character can be almost more challenging than a strong one, sometimes, but he's pulling it off nicely... Tricky balance between despicable and pitiful, but he's nailing it."

Alanna Lyons has posed:
There's tempting conversation, but there's also a performance that's equally as interesting. "There'll be time for seminars." Alanna's gaze shifts to Marcus briefly, an amused smile on her lips before she returns her attention to the stage. Picking up on Marcus' comments on Lady Macbeth's age, she takes a long look at the actress and nods her agreement. "Changes the dynamic, I think, if she's perhaps a more passionate and headstrong woman rather than a more mature and calculating one. Certainly different intentions. I like it."

She glances towards Jenny at her assessment of the play, and she nods a little. "Almost makes him seem painfully human when you look at him like that. It's a good portrayal. Really, the whole thing is very strong, I'm impressed. This is the kind of performance I happily would have paid for."

Marcus Xin-Murdoch has posed:
These are not monsters, these characters. They are humans, driven by human instincts and urges, monstrous as anyone might be, ambitious in a way that many would admire, just not to this extent or by these means. The portrayals bring that humanity, vulnerable and vicious, to the fore. There is much to talk about, yet ever reason to fall quiet and watch. The more they hear, the more they can speak about it, after all. It just takes patience, and attention. "Perhaps during intermission," Marcus says, "we can reconvene."

Mary Jane Watson has posed:
Mary Jane MacBeth draws the protesting MacBeth into her embrace, resting his head upon her bosom as she purrs, ever so softly...

But screw your courage to the sticking-place,
And we'll not fail. When Duncan is asleep
Whereto the rather shall his day's hard journey
Soundly invite him and his two chamberlains
Will I with wine and wassail so convince
That memory, the warder of the brain,
Shall be a fume, and the receipt of reason
A limbeck only: when in swinish sleep
Their drenched natures lie as in a death,
What cannot you and I perform upon
The unguarded Duncan? what not put upon
His spongy officers, who shall bear the guilt
Of our great quell?

With that, she places a kiss upon MacBeth's brow, stroking his head with one hand, whilst the other slips a dagger into his grasp. The audience seeing all too well her intentions, and letting the first act end with dreadful preminition.

And then, an intermission, as some of the cast comes out to mingle with the audience and say hello. Mary Jane, aka Lady MacBeth, being one of them, as she smiles charmingly and in complete contrast to the deviousness she gave on the stage.