‘Makbet’ is Shakespeare in a shipping container
'Something wicked this way comes' to East Williamsburg
Shakespeare. In a shipping container. With bursts of Eastern European Roma-style singing and chanting. What’s not to like?
Dzieci Theatre is staging “Makbet,” an intense and deeply satisfying version of Shakespeare’s tragedy “Macbeth,” at an East Williamsburg recycling center called Sure We Can.
It’s an open-air lot stacked high with shipping containers that are filled with bags of cans and bottles. At the back of the lot, one of the containers is being used as a tiny theatre venue.
Before the play begins, the affable cast spends some quality time with audience members. Everybody gathers outdoors around a fire in a trash can for a sing-along and some other bonding activities.
Then the actors escort playgoers into the quirky theatre.
It’s narrow and partly filled with milk crates that serve as seating for the audience and several cast members. If it were a hairsbreadth smaller, it would be claustrophobia-inducing.
The container’s steel walls come in handy when the actors want to create thunderous sound effects.
The small space works well in compelling the audience to share very intimately the characters’ suffering and passions. And oh, such passions.
Embracing evil like it’s a religion
“Macbeth” is arguably the darkest of William Shakespeare’s plays. Its protagonist resorts to murder, again and again, to become a king and remain a king. He embraces evil like it’s a religion.
And Dzieci Theatre’s founder, Matt Mitler, sticks faithfully to Shakespeare’s original text, with judicious trims, in his adaptation.
Mitler also designed this production, and is its director.
By the way, the experimental theatre ensemble’s name “dzieci” means “children” in Polish.
Five actors — the ones seated on the milk crates — serve as a chorus. Three other actors play all the principal roles.
They know every line of 90-minute “Makbet.” Each one plays a particular role for a few minutes, then takes on a different role.
They wear specific items of clothing to indicate who’s who at any given moment — for instance, a black hat when they’re playing Macbeth, a blood-red scarf when they’re playing Lady Macbeth.
It’s easy to remember which item denotes which character because the actors explain all this before “Makbet” starts.
“If no one is Macbeth for too long, no one leaves here cursed,” one of them says.
Mitler, Megan Bones and Yvonne Brechbuhler are the principal actors, a supremely skilled trio.
You’ll get chills down your spine when Lady Macbeth calls upon evil spirits to “unsex me here; and fill me from the crown to the toe, top-full of direst cruelty.”
Macbeth’s soliloquy that begins, “Is this a dagger which I see before me,” about a hallucinatory weapon for slaying King Duncan, is terrifying.
A scene in which Macbeth sees the ghost of another murder victim, Banquo, is harrowing.
Scenes with the three witches are the stuff of nightmares — which is, of course, exactly what they’re supposed to be.
It’s all terrific theatre.
In the course of the play’s five-week run, possibly different actors will play these mesmerizing scenes on different days.
But it’s a good bet that at every performance, these scenes — and indeed the entire play — will be acted with riveting intensity.
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Dzieci Theatre’s “Makbet” runs through Oct. 8, with performances on Thursdays through Sundays.
The venue, which is a shipping container at recycling center Sure We Can, is at 219 McKibbin St. in a section of East Williamsburg that’s sometimes referred to as Bushwick.
See dziecitheatre.org to purchase tickets, which are $20.