review: that play a solo macbeth

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That Play: A Solo Macbeth

Based upon characters by William Shakespeare
Written by Tom Gualtieri and Heather Hill
Original music by Erin Hill
Directed by Heather Hill
Featuring Tom Gualtieri
Stage Left Studio, 214 West 30th, 6th Floor
April 14, 2012 — July 12, 2012 (extended)
production web site

Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
June 28, 2012

Tom Gualtieri. Image by Rob Sutton.

One person adaptations of classic tales can take the form of story telling (“And what do you imagine happened then, children?”) or quick change with wigs and paraphernalia or total embodiment of a few characters who experience the rest of the action. The keenly edited storytelling adventure in That Play: A Solo Macbeth, as crafted by Tom Gualtieri and Heather Hill, as acted by Gualtieri alone as directed by Ms. Hill, gives us a bit of each of those options. At moments I feel as though the best secondary teacher in the world is telling me the story of Shakespeare‘s Macbeth and this can occasionally be wearing. As in Shakespeare’s story, two royals named Macbeth take advantage of an opportunity that involves violence to promote their own political careers, take unearned solace in misunderstood prophesies, and the world is put to rights by play’s end. At times Gualtieri stops, breaks all attempts at a fourth wall, and interacts with us in the audience and asks us to muse in a particular way on a particular theme in the play. And in the end, Gualtieri takes us back in story time to a particularly haunting late night moment, using that audience-participation energy, gifting us with the most theatrical and resonant sequence in the final moments of this production’s running time. In these moments, rather than telling a story to us, Gualtieri finally has brought us into the moment of a single minor character’s terror. And these moments are riveting and resonant theatre.

We have Gualtieri on the small Stage Left Studio stage with nary a prop, yet a fluid body, a flexible face, and a compelling voice. He captures male and female characters from Kings to courtiers to Queen and witches with nuance and charm. His female voices are not camp but gently evocative — there is never a flounce or a limp wrist or an easy indication of gender. In fact, the stars of the simple theatricality of this spare production, other than the performer himself, are the carefully crafted script (by director Heather Hill and Gualtieri). and the specially constructed trousers worn by Gualtieri crafted by Whitney Webster that receive their own credit in the program with good reason.

© Martha Wade Steketee (July 6, 2012)

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