This is not what might be described as a utopian moment in history. The arts, including theater, of course, have found the need to protest the political climate. Sometimes, their response has been by providing us with dystopian visions of a world gone awry. 1984, for example, is one such production. The recently closed revival of Fucking A by Suzan-Lori Parks is another.
Arden/Everywhere, at the Baruch Performing Arts Center from October 8th to 28th, based on Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It, takes aim at the dangers that face a democracy. Jessica Baumann and her creative team see their work as a “reframing” of the original text. Their story purports to be about exile and banishment and does not want to center on the romance in this pastoral comedy.
In fact, the text for Arden/Everywhere is Shakespeare’s, embellished by references to immigrants and the plight of refugees. To that end, in its opening sequence, every greeting is a parting, and every hug and handshake bodes a separation.
The likeable cast present Shakespeare’s words with great authority and make the plot both clear and easy to follow. The principals, Rosalind (a very charming Helen Cespedes), Orlando (Anthony Cason, Jr.), Oliver (Kambi Gathesha) and Celia (Liba Vayneberg) are outstanding.
In honor of their 20th anniversary, Dzieci Theatre will reinstate its Gypsy-infused production of Macbeth, MAKBETfor a 5-Week run starting on September 6 at Bushwick’s Sure We Can. Our guest reviewer, Mari S. Gold had a chance to see it in October 2015.
Makbet, playing from October 1st to 18th at Sure We Can, Bushwick, is five actors in search of “the Scottish play:” we’ll let Mari S. Gold tell you all about!
When Will We Three Meet Again?
In thunder, lightning or at a recycling center in Bushwick, Brooklyn? If you picked the latter, you were along for the ride as Theater Group Dzeici presented Makbet, a “gypsy ritual Macbeth.”
According to the group’s Rules of Engagement, “three actors will play all the roles except on Sundays.” Since I attended on a Sunday, five actors took part while others sat among the audience, speaking on occasion. Viewers were outdoors perched on black plastic boxes. Apparently on other days, presentations take place inside a shipping container. The rest of the rules: “1.Actors must know the entire text; 2.Actors may not play the same role in successive sequences; 3.Roles can be taken or given, embraced or refused; 4.No less than three, nor more than five, actors must play all the roles; 5.We begin and end in ceremony; 6. Nothing else is planned.”
The opening ceremony included actors playing guitar and accordion while singing in (what I assume) is a Romany language. Everyone danced. Vaguely psychic readings were offered. (I was told to remember to breathe or something along those lines.) There was a fire in a trash can; for anyone who wished to cook a small potato. A red liquor tasting like Robitussin was served, passed to each partaker in a .shot glass. Items of clothing were produced, each signifying a particular character: Macbeth’s totem was a scarlet-banded black felt hat; Lady M’s a red “shawl”; Duncan’s a blue coat and so on. Per the “rules,” whomever is given a particular item adopts that character for a few lines or more. The whole was unorthodox, energetic and very entertaining
Kudos to all the actors for their fierce involvement as they evoked the original work even while taking some liberties with the language and interspersed speaking with powerful, often moving, singing. Forget gender as they shifted, sometimes mid-speech. Actors beat a drum or pot lid, setting the rhythm for different sections. The whole had a wildly improvisational character yet the underlying story was present and drew me in completely. The company’s mission states that Dzieci is “firmly dedicated to process” which shines through as each presentation differs markedly depending on which actor is assuming a role.
The cast, Megan Bones, Yvonne Brecht, Ryan Castalia, Jesse Hathaway and Matt Mitler, are highly dedicated and work beautifully together. Karen Hatt is credited with the costumes, a mish-mash with a thrift shop quality that’s just fine because attention is focused on the character symbols like Macbeth’s hat. I especially liked the “when shall we three meet again” scene, typically spoken by the Weird Sisters, played here with the entire company circling the stage dancing in a pattern reminiscent of the hora. Actually, there was no stage as such but a large wooden platform (possibly a crate from a painting) spread with a carpet.
Nothing is quite what it seems as though the Macbeth we are familiar with is merely a springboard for this talented group to mould into a dynamic, absorbing offering.