Patrick Stewart, 67 years old, may be best known to audiences as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, or perhaps Locutus, but his real passion is the Bard. Currently, he is performing in an interesting take on Macbeth — set in the theme of the Soviet empire, though still supposedly in Scotland. The shows are sold out and, excitingly, it comes to New York next year. The critics are raving according to this AP report:

The Daily Telegraph’s Charles Spencer declared Rupert Goold’s “brilliantly inventive, heart-stoppingly scary” staging “the greatest production of ‘Macbeth’ I have ever seen.” Michael Billington in The Guardian awarded the show five stars out of five, praising its “directorial inventiveness” and “brilliant acting.” The Evening Standard’s Nicholas de Jongh called it simply “the ‘Macbeth’ of a lifetime.” …

Stewart… is a soldierly, commanding Macbeth. First uncertain whether to seize his destiny by killing his monarch, then stunned by his actions, he becomes a volatile, paranoid tyrant who sees enemies at all turns. “Stewart has done nothing finer,” wrote Billington, who praised his transformation from “reflective soldier … (into) an insecure monster whose most chilling tactic is a dangerous levity.

And from The Telegraph:

The performances are superb. Stewart delivers the great soliloquies with hushed intensity and thrilling clarity, taking us right inside the mind of a man who understands the importance of virtue and morality, but is nevertheless seduced by the terrible lure of power. We also watch him discovering that further killing is the only way to quieten his conscience, until he is left only with the bitter, exhausted nihilism of the great last act.

It ought to be a real treat for anyone, whether a Trekker or not, to see Stewart perform in this setting. It’s the perfect storm of awesome actors and timeless themes. You’ve got to hand it to Goold for “going Soviet” as well. We can barely imagine how terrible the pressures might have been inside the regime, and can only guess at what it made some people do.

( Graphic linked from The Telegraph ; For a long list of the great reviews, click here )