Review: Match: Lit Presents William Shakespeare's "Macbeth"

Start-up theatre ensemble Match: Lit debuted their first play on Saturday: a nine-person rendition of William Shakespeare’s "Macbeth." Members of the ensemble, along with a few guest actors, performed "Macbeth" at The Alchemical Theatre Laboratory near Union Square. The room was small and nearly everything was white, with the exception of two blood red curtains adorning the windows behind the stage. These curtains made up the entire set.

The ensemble also uses minimal props: a few fake knives, a table and some chairs, a cheap-looking crown and not much else. The costumes—which are reminiscent of early 20th century England—are modern enough to be familiar but out-of-style enough to pull the audience out of the present.

Only 11 characters appear on stage during the play, each performed by a different actor or actress. Shakespeare’s original version features a cast of more than 30 characters.

Match: Lit fills in the gaps largely by inserting the three witches—the Weïrd Sisters—into the story at strategic points. One of them, played by the hilarious Ty Baumann, acts as the bleeding Captain in the second scene, hearing of Macbeth’s success in battle and the king’s plan to make him Thane of Cawdor. Afterwards, when the witches encounter Macbeth and Banquo, they begin to spin their prophecies using this piece of information. Beyond that, they seem to make things up as they go.

Throughout the play, the witches are portrayed as confused individuals trying to navigate their way through a story that they did not expect to find themselves in. This perspective adds an interesting sense of chaos to a story that is generally associated with the relentless unfolding of one character’s fate.

At the same time, the witches add a nice bit of comic relief to the tragedy. Baumann is especially hilarious—in one scene he presides over the coronation of Macbeth speaking jibberish, much like that used by the Minions in Despicable Me. Zachary Gamble and Kristin Sgarro play the other two witches. Gamble has a nice stage presence even though his role does not require as much. Sgarro’s witch delivery is a bit lackluster compared to her those of her counterparts—but any room for character development should be weighed with the fact that Sgarro has also been busy launching Match: Lit and producing the play itself.

The success of any rendition of Macbeth relies on the lead actor’s ability to portray the emotional turmoil that the lead character suffers after his first murder, all the way to his death and the play’s end. David Rudi Utter does not disappoint. His emotional force as an actor helps the audience to move beyond the bare white studio and into a story that has captivated viewers and readers for centuries.

When it comes to making a low-budget performance seem less low-budget, director Bryan Hunt knows his stuff. Hunt directed both "Eurydice" and "Twilight of the Gods" for The King’s Players, a theater organization at The King's College, last year. Macbeth is reminiscent of his version of Eurydice, in that Hunt makes impressive artistic choices that make scarcity look more like intentional minimalism. He does this with his bold use of the Weïrd Sisters, as well as in smaller ways, such as having dead characters line up at the back of the stage, facing away from the audience, and stomp their feet in unison to create audible intensity as the play moves towards its climax.

Sgarro announced on the Facebook event page that the play is moving to a larger studio for its final performances this weekend. It will be interesting to see whether the environmental change will effect the show’s striking simplicity, which is one of its greatest virtues.