Relying on a tight ensemble of storytellers, and a keen eye in adaptation by director Jordan Reeves, this production breathes life into one of the Bard’s lesser-known works, reinventing its historically clunky frame into a touching meta-narrative.
Thus the witches speak to the fated king-to-be, setting in motion the tragic betrayals of the plot. The quote also captures something about Dzieci Theatre‘s newest incarnation of Makbet, playing through October 8th at Sure We Can in Brooklyn: in their stripped-down version, minimally produced with only three principle performers backed by a chorus, the elemental truth of the Scottish Play is brought forth in a profound, vivid, and completely unexpected way.
Steeped in Eastern European folk and theatrical traditions, and set deep within a funky recycling and community center in Brooklyn, the Dzieci ensemble transforms into a riotous band of storytellers who welcome you around a fire, and then lead you through the depths of human nature via an abridged version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, staged entirely within a shipping container.
The company follows “Rules of Engagement” for Makbet, which serve as a template for endless unique iterations conjured by the airtight ensemble:
Actors must know the entire text
Actors may not play the same role in successive sequences
Roles can be taken or given, embraced or refused
Three actors alone will play the principle roles
We begin and end in ceremony
Nothing else is planned
Each rule is carefully crafted, and their combined success is something to behold. Read on to find out more!
Shakespeare in the Park, presented by The Public Theater, is a veritable New York institution, providing free theater of the highest caliber every summer at the beautiful open-air Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Rain or shine, hundreds of locals and tourists alike line up every morning for the chance to see immortal classics given new life and new context.
But a more recent addition to The Public’s programming at the Delacorte has been the successful “Public Works” series, which combines the world-renowned institution with community engagement and ardent support of local artists into a transcendent form of community theater. As the program explains: “Blending elements of song, mass spectacle, and dance, community masques seek to both tell the story at hand, and also to serve as an occasion for larger civic celebration.”
AS YOU LIKE IT, which ran September 1st – 5th as the culmination of the 2017 Public Works program, achieved these lofty goals and more. It truly captured, from the individual to the communal level, everything that makes theater an important and wonderful art form.
Recent Cutbacks, acclaimed for their signature stripped down style of theatrical movie parodies, returns to The PIT with their third and most ambitious show to date, KEVIN!!!!!, a multimedia send-up of perennial holiday classic Home Alone. Playing through January 7th at The PIT, KEVIN!!!! combines puppetry, live projection, a four-part choir, and the free-wheeling ensemble spectacle we’ve come to expect from Recent Cutbacks in a majorly satisfying hour-long show.
And in case you missed their previous shows, they’re offering one-night-only reprises of both Hold Onto Your Butts and Fly, You Fools!as a part of two double-feature evenings, listed below. Both classics are highly recommended — you can even read this blog’s very first review, of Fly, You Fools!, if you need any more convincing!
In addition to reviews and essays about theatrical productions, Theater Is Good is embarking upon a quest to cover the array of developmental, festival, and non-traditional work that happens in the broader theater scene. So much important work and creativity goes on at other kinds of events, with so many worthy organizations empowering and connecting artists, but they don’t seem to get nearly the attention of production runs. The Theater Is Good (TiG) Spotlight is here to shine a light on this truly valuable work!
At the heart of almost all great theater — all great media, perhaps — is a well-told story. There are exceptions that prove the rule, but in the end, in some way, it’s all about the meaningful journey or lessons of a story. Not the plot, to be clear, which is a series of events — a plot won’t take our hand, show us around the world a little bit, and then leave us alone in the supermarket. But a story will.
The art of storytelling grows ever more complex with the technical opportunities of the stage and screen. It has become thrilling to pare it back, subversive in its simplicity, and leave a lone performer the noble task: “Tell us a story.” Synthesizing, becoming all the strategies and skill that make stories work across media, a good performer can make you feel what it was to be ancient, and to need oral stories the way you needed the next hunt.
The Where Project, presented by The Group Lab, has grown to be such a gathering, bringing together various storytellers in a two-act presentation framed by the questions, “Where are you from?” and “Where are you going?” These are prompts for stories we’d find in a circle of newly acquainted friends, and the Lab inspires this atmosphere throughout their events. There’s time to grab a drink and chat, while the company loosely MCs the evening.
The question of representation in entertainment is a front-and-center issue of our time, even if you’re not working in the industry. With trending topics like #OscarsSoWhite, the raging back-and-forth around Hamilton’s non-white casting call, audition room role reversals, and a recent surge of Asian awareness in Hollywood, it’s pretty familiar territory to anyone with a finger on media’s pulse.
Room 4, by Marina and Nicco, and playing twice more at The People’s Improv Theater (5/26 & 5/27 at 9:30 PM) takes an extended look under the hood, moving deeper than hashtags and taking full advantage of comedy and theatrical history to deconstruct depictions of black characters and the use of black actors in America. Four actors stuck in an existential time loop play out their most stereotyped role, tortured from beyond time and space by the twin fantasies of white supremacist media — the Angry Black Guy and the Magical Negro.
The piece moves as a series of comedic scenes spiraling on a theatrical framework that draws variously from Beckett, commedia dell’arte, and Groundhog’s Day. To quote the aptly worded release, “It’s funny, but a little angry, but mostly funny.”
Given just a one-line description of Recent Cutbacks’ “Fly, You Fools!”, currently extended through July at The People’s Improv Theater, it feels like a bit of a joke: a nearly shot-for-shot parody of The Fellowship of the Ring starring just three actors and a Foley sound artist, sending up the first installment of Peter Jackson’s historic The Lord of The Rings trilogy in about an hour-and-a-half.
And after all, it’s being produced at one of the preeminent comedy centers in NYC, which until recently hasn’t necessarily been known as a breeding ground for traditional theater. But this show, along with some of the other recent offerings at The PIT, should challenge that assumption pretty directly.
Running at The PIT through July, “Fly, You Fools!” will also include limited run / double-feature presentations of Recent Cutbacks’ original production, “Hold On To Your Butts” on 6/28 & 7/12.