By Robert Feldberg
When people mention the one-man version of Shakespeare's Scottish tragedy that's currently being performed in New York, they're probably not referring to "That Play: A Solo Macbeth."
Alan Cumming's "Macbeth," on Broadway, is much better known, but Tom Gualtieri's version, at the off-off-Broadway Stage Left Studio, hasn't gone unnoticed. "That Play" is the one that received a Drama Desk nomination, for unique theatrical experience. The awards will be presented tonight.
"I was completely flabbergasted [by the nomination]," said Gualtieri, who grew up in Woodland Park ("When it was still West Paterson!") and attended Passaic Valley High School. "It's so unbelievable, such a tremendous honor, for a little show like ours. I didn't think we were even on the radar."
Bitten by the theater bug when he was 5 years old, for a reason he can't explain, Gualtieri pursued his interest in performing through high school and at Syracuse University, before coming to New York.
He said the idea of doing a one-man performance of Shakespeare occurred to him about 15 years ago.
"I was having trouble getting roles that I wanted to play," he said. "I was a Shakespeare nut, and I thought I could do my own solo Shakespeare show."
First done in 2003
He and playwright Heather Hill - who directed the current production - did an adaptation that was first performed in 2003.
Nine years later, they had an opportunity to do the show in New York again, and it caught fire, in an off-off-Broadway fashion.
After opening a year ago, it was extended a number of times, and then, after a break, re-opened in April. The current run is scheduled to end Saturday, although an extension is possible.
Gualtieri said it was important to him and Hill that the show not be a stunt: One man! Nineteen roles!
"We wanted to shape it as a true, valid piece of solo theater."
After much thought and work, that led to the creation of a narrator, who serves as a plain-speaking guide to the play. (His introduction of Lady Macbeth: "Now you are about to meet a lady who holds a very special place in my heart.")
Gualtieri glides from narrator to the various characters in the pared-down adaptation of Shakespeare, which runs about 80 minutes.
"We realized a story-telling component was needed," he said, adding that bringing the audience into the production was a primary goal. "The narrator is a somewhat mischievous guide. He prods the audience: How are you like Macbeth? In certain situations, could we all be Macbeths?"
As for that other "Macbeth" in town, in which Cumming also presents a shortened version of the play, as the recurring nightmare of a mental patient, Gualtieri noted: "Ours is very different; we do a kind of deconstruction of the play."
And, he added good-naturedly, when people bring up Cumming's show, he always reminds them, "I did it first."
(c) 2013 Record, The; Bergen County, N.J.. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.
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OCTOBER 30, 2014
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