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That Play

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Tom Gualtieri
March 3, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Actor/Writer.

What is your show about?
In a wild and frightening 85-minute adaptation of Macbeth, one man asks the question - what is the darkness in your soul - as he tries to find the answer in Shakespeare´s masterpiece, playing 19 characters including Macbeth and his infamous Lady, the 3 weird sisters, no fewer than 4 terrifying apparitions and a slew of Scottish Lords and Ladies. What could be more fun that murder, mayhem, suicide and revenge?

What do you do when you’re not working on a play?
I have a lot of interests and I constantly feel a need to satisfy my creative drive. When I’m not managing conflict in my building as the president of my tenants’ association (a huge job in a building with over 1,000 units), I have an ongoing collaboration with David Sisco. We performed BAIT n’ SWISH two years ago (which he wrote but we both act in.) We’ve completed work on our musical FALLING TO EARTH and have begun our second musical project. (We share book writing credit but he does music and I do lyrics.) I’m also an avid knitter, scuba diver and I write for www.theweeklings.com, where my essays are published bi-monthly. Presently I have an essay series for THE WEEKLINGS called “My Year of Horror” in which I choose a monthly theme and watch as many horror movies in that category as I can stomach. It’s great fun!

Complete this sentence: My show is the only one opening in NYC this winter that...?
THAT PLAY: A SOLO MACBETH is the only show opening in NYC that has ANOTHER solo Macbeth opening on Broadway at the same time. Mine is wildly different from that other one – and mine incidentally, needs only one director (Heather Hill) and is actually a solo show. There are no other actors onstage with me – just me. THAT PLAY: A SOLO MACBETH also came first – it was originally performed in full 10 years ago at the Midtown International Theatre Festival and subsequently The Belt Theatre. Ironically, that other guy is doing a solo Macbeth at the same time. The curse of The Scottish Play maybe?

Do you think the audience will talk about your show for 5 minutes, an hour, or way into the wee hours of the night?
Heather Hill (my director and co-adaptor) and I believe THAT PLAY: A SOLO MACBETH will spark long debates. We’ve spent a lot of time crafting this interpretation to examine the nature of evil and making a concerted effort to relate our contemporary lives to that of the Macbeths. Our tagline is “What is the darkness in your soul?” It’s not merely an opportunity for me to play all the parts in Macbeth; it’s actually a wickedly funny examination of human nature. We wanted to explore why Macbeth is so popular in our culture – it’s more than just the horror of blood and guts – it’s the horror of knowing we all have a dark side and are capable of evil and cruelty. Everyone has good inside as well, but THAT PLAY is about the darkness. It’s also mischievously funny and irreverent without being disrespectful to Shakespeare. A delicate balance of humor, horror and history.

Which cartoon character would you identify your show with: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Mickey Mouse, Marge Simpson?
Without a doubt, I would associate Bugs Bunny with THAT PLAY because Bugs is a mischief-maker and clown who is always pointing up human foibles. In THAT PLAY, our Narrator takes on the role of the court jester, keeping you interested and entertained, guiding us through the play while also poking and prodding at your innermost secrets. The Narrator is the most important element of our adaptation because he guides us into the play, deceptively, with humor and camaraderie and, before you know it, you’re being asked to look at your dark side. He never lets you off the hook. Bugs Bunny is just like that.

How important is diversity to you in the theater you see/make?
I’m glad you asked this because the lack of diversity is probably my #1 pet peeve in the theatre. I want to see people of every kind onstage. When I see a musical on Broadway and there’s only one black woman and one black man in a chorus of white faces (nevermind Asian actors who are rarely seen on Broadway) I become so disappointed in our industry. I believe any actor can play any role (provided they have the talent.) We could get into a big discussion about physical type – that’s a separate issue - but I believe there are a lot more opportunities for multi-ethnic casting than are utilized in the American theatre. Especially on Broadway which has, in my opinion, become even MORE homogenized in the two decades I have been living in New York. Heather and I wrote THAT PLAY: A SOLO MACBETH for me to act in – but anyone with the skill could take over or understudy me: woman, man, black, white, European, Asian… I would LOVE to see someone of a different race play this – man or woman! That would make me very happy.