Irish Ethiopian actress Ruth Negga was last in New York playing Hamlet in a sold out, critically acclaimed run - but this month she's back in another play by Shakespeare, this time as Lady Macbeth with a Limerick City accent on Broadway.
Some actors command the stage and the screen with ease, but all too often they turn out to be unable to project their voices further than the first few rows of stalls on Broadway.
This will never be a problem for Ruth Negga, 40. Standing at just five foot three inches, she is an absolute colossus on both stage and screen, filling every square inch of the Longacre Theatre on Broadway with her voice, talent, and presence.
This month, she's back in "Macbeth" playing opposite the latest James Bond, Daniel Craig, 54. That kind of Hollywood A-List casting means that the line to get into the theatre starts somewhere outside of Boston because a celebrity of his magnitude is Broadway box office gold.
"Macbeth" has just reopened after Craig suffered from a bout of Covid, which left the theatre closed for weeks, just as it once did in Shakespeare's own time (but in the latter's case it could take years for the theaters to reopen).
So what is there to say about the show? Well, it's always time for a new production of "Macbeth," which says just about everything there is to say about the dangers of pursuing power and position for its own sake, and relying on the worst possible help to achieve it (Vladimir Putin, if you're listening, don't release any more Congressional emails).
"Macbeth" is a brutal play about brutal people - and how their ambition and greed can turn lives upside down - as they set about picking off the people that get in their way. Set in Scotland, the play is also about a private obsession of the then King James, who saw witchcraft at work in the affairs of men and wanted to see plays that addressed it.
"Macbeth" famously starts with three witches to give the king exactly what he wanted, but it also reminds us that they give the character Macbeth something he really doesn't want, the news that he will soon be king of Scotland.
Just like running for president to bolster your brand and satisfy your outsized ego, Macbeth is utterly astonished when it looks like he will succeed beyond his own dreams. But in a situation where the only way to wear the crown is to violently take it, he starts to lose heart over how it can be done.
Enter Ruth Negga as his brilliant, lethal wife Lady Macbeth. The power behind the throne on the page and in this production, from the moment she speaks, she holds the fate of everyone around her – including the audience - in her hands.
Lady Macbeth thinks that compassion is for suckers and she more or less says so, as she rounds on her faltering husband to ensure that he does what he has to do, which is murder the good King Duncan and steal his throne.
Watching Negga onstage it can be hard to figure out who the Irish Ethiopian actress, who grew up in Limerick, reminds you of. Her last turn here in New York was as Hamlet at the Saint Anne's Warehouse in Brooklyn, the male prince of Denmark in a production that she headed up and owned from first to last.
There isn't a trace of the Hamlet she played before in the willowy but lethal Lady Macbeth. This time she's cat-like, her movements as precise as her ambitions, and she makes it clear early on that she's the more dominant one in this marriage of unequals.
You have to look right past Negga's peers and even a few prior generations to figure out who her talent echoes: Bette Davis. The presence, the command, the sheer ferocity lurking under the genteel demeanor, she's an old Hollywood-style powerhouse that any director or playwright would dream of casting.
Finding a vehicle for a star of Negga's ability is a tough ask in an era where costumed superheroes have edged out adult dramas at the box office. (Negga actually played one in "Agents Of Shield," more or less a right of passage now for top-tier actors in 2022).
But the kind of mature dramas that Davis once burned up the screen with don't find the same interest or audiences now, as her remarkable work in "Passing," the 2021 film in which she starred as a Black woman passing as a white one (and married to a racist white husband) unfortunately proves.
Negga was sensational as a caught between two worlds character in that beautifully observed film, but the truth is she is more likely to find a bigger audience on Broadway than she did for that riveting character study.
That's all to the good, perhaps. Anything that reminds the general public of the sheer scope of her talent is to be applauded and Negga burns up the stage. Working in her native Limerick accent, which suggests how close she holds this character to her, she inhabits the role as though she grew up to be her.
You can hear all the caustic and cajoling sounds of home in her tones and you can understand her inner emotions from the merest glance. It's Tony-winning work in other words, and I'll be very sorry if she's passed over.
Sadly, the rest of the production lets her down. Daniel Craig reminds us how and why he landed the role of James Bond, being both physically imposing and capable of convening interior torment, but he seems oddly checked out from the action on stage at times and he seemed to forget a line or two on the night I attended.
The stripped-down production often suggested a student workshop to me more than a Broadway show and the atmosphere involved so many smoke machines that it started to look like "Top of the Pops" in the disco era.
Worst of all was the line readings. American actors can often struggle with blank verse but in this production, they went down with the play. Monologues were delivered with all the passion and enthusiasm of someone reading a phone book, bringing us out of the world of the play and making us wonder how on earth some of the actors had actually been cast.
This production was directed by Sam Gold, who seems to have decided to comment on the lousy way that conservative politicians have been picking on the LGBT community and on the transgendered in particular by casting women in roles traditionally played by men and dressing one of the male actors (if that is how they identify) in female attire.
What has the plight of the LGBT community and the trans community, in particular, got to do with a struggle for power in the eleventh century? Well, if you can figure that out I'll applaud you, but I didn't applaud it in this curious production.
When Negga appears, she carries this poorly directed production in the palm of her hand, bringing the story and the stakes to life and reminding us just how much heavy lifting a talented actor can actually do.
But no actor can completely salvage the weird choices made by an overweening, in-demand director, so in the end, this is a timely audition piece for Negga when it could clearly have been an utter triumph.
"Macbeth" is now playing at the Longacre Theatre on Broadway.