I'm somewhat of a Shakespeare purist at heart, so I approached the Old Stone House , where I was to see "Dzeici Makbet" ("a Wicked Work in Progress") last night with some trepidation. But from the very enthusiastic reception I got at the entrance, greeted by cast members, to the thoroughly enjoyable hour-and-a-quarter of the show, I'm glad I my fears were far from coming true.
To give you an idea of what the performance was like, consider these points:
Instead of a program with the usual notes on the actors and the obligatory notice praising Actor's Equity, we're handed a "Rules of Engagement..." which says, among several points, that all Actor must know the entire text, and that each is "encouraged to play a Witch, Makbet (Macbeth), and Lady Makbet at least once per enactment."
Before the play begins, the cast, speaking in various sometimes-put-on accents, encourages the audience to eat (bread, sausage and macaroons) and drink (wine, and a potent sweet liqueur) to get in the mood. Glasses and utensils are not much in supply; straight from the bottle and bits off the hunk is the way.
The "stage" is somewhat smaller than the average living room carpet (in fact, it is a living room carpet,) and contains at times, eight actors, and eight lit candles; the only other prop being a bucket (put to good use, among other things, as the witch's cauldron,) and a hand-held spotlight used to great effect as the only source of non-candle light.
Actors change roles at the drop of a hat, negotiating the change in the manner of an improvisational exercise (the director, Matt Mitler told me at the end," well, we've not had two Macduffs in the final scene before".) This may, and does, lead to a considerable level of confusion and sometimes incoherence (a knowledge of Macbeth is essential, check synopsis here before you go if your knowledge of the play is spotty), but the action moves smartly along, propelled by the energy and acting acumen of the cast. If you consider the additional tension induced by this number of actors working quite physically in such a tiny space, surrounded by audience members inches away, with breakable and lighted objects around, you'd see why there's probably a clause in the non-program prohibiting lawyers from attending. Nobody yesterday seemed even remotely fazed.
Not the least of the delights of this performance is the melding of the Shakespearean text (well, considerably truncated, of course, distilled to its essence is perhaps the more operative word,) with songs in multiple languages and a consistent humming refrain which begins and ends the show (and yes, the audience is encouraged to join in the haunting sounds.) Does it matter that we wonder exactly who's who at the moment? No. It adds to the effect.
I wished I had my son with me as I know (aside from the libations, of course) it would be greatly enjoyable for anyone of any age with a love of theatre, an open mind and a sense of fun. Only other performance tonight at 8pm
The Dzieci Theatre "is an international experimental theatre ensemble dedicated to a search for the "sacred" through the medium of theatre." They will be at La Mama on Apr 16-19 with "Fools Mass at LaMaMa" and I certainly intend to be there.