King of the spill: ‘Macbeth’ plays at Bushwick recycling center

The man who might be king: Actor Ryan Castalia is one of three performers who will alternately portray witches, nobles, and gypsies in “Makbet,” opening at the Sure We Can bottle and can redemption center on Oct. 1.
Photo by Jason Speakman

Confusion now hath made his masterpiece!

A scrambled production of “Macbeth” will bow on Oct. 1 inside of a large shipping container at the Sure We Can bottle and can redemption center in Bushwick. But in this show, it is never clear who will be king hereafter. In the Dzieci Theater Company’s Eastern European take on the Shakespearean classic, now titled “Makbet,” the actors can swap roles from scene to scene, and the show’s director says the creative chaos gives the show a fresh energy.

“The rules are roles can be taken and given, embraced or refused. It keeps you on the edge in this very dynamic way,” said Matt Mitler.

Audiences can track characters through the hurly-burly by their costumes, he said.

“We do a scene and Macbeth wears a black fedora,” said Mitler. “So I might grab the fedora and I’m Macbeth. At the same time, someone might grab the fedora from me and put it on and they’re Macbeth. Or no one wants to take the hat and someone just takes it and puts it on someone else and they’re Macbeth. So every scene begins with this sort of Russian roulette-type thing.”

The role-swapping approach requires each actor to know the entire text of the play, and to approach acting in a new way, said Mitler.

“Can I go from being this character to that character, but still be in touch with my inner emotional qualities so that I’m not dropping what I just did?” said Mitler. “I’m letting what I did with the last character infuse and inform what I’m doing with the next characterization.”

The stripped-down show struts and frets its hour upon the stage with only three actors playing all the parts — a challenge that resulted from the tight confines of the shipping container stage. Mitler says that creative constraints of the space have made the show even better.

“We all agreed that in this setting,” Mitler said, “each show became the best it had ever been. ‘Makbet,’ in the shipping container, becomes incredibly intimate, and there’s a wonderful acoustic that carries the voice even as a whisper and is glorious for the songs and chants, but there’s also this feeling of being trapped, or being in hiding. The physical limitations of this space take us into uncharted territory.”

Mitler says that the location and the ethos at Sure We Can, a nonprofit for people who make their living collecting and scrapping bottles and cans, has been inspiring for the Brooklyn theater troupe.

“Sure We Can fosters such a deep sense of humility, of communion,” Mitler said, “that we feel more at home there than anywhere else we’ve ever performed.”

The production also uses Mitler’s experience studying theater in Poland, incorporating gypsy-inspired costumes and Eastern European music into the traditionally Scottish play. Each show also starts with a pre-show celebration of gypsy culture outside the container, says Mitler, including a large bonfire, music, and fortune-telling.

“Makbet” at Sure We Can (219 McKibbin St. between Bushwick Avenue and White Street in Bushwick, www.dziecitheater.org). Oct. 1–4, 8–11, and 15–18. Thu–Sat at 7 pm, Sundays at 4 pm. $10.

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