“That Play” is a timeless, murderous story that many performers have attempted to tackle. Tom Gualtieri and Heather Hill have managed to pin down the twisted tale and help the general public embrace it. Since the play is a Shakespeare classic, it is both open to interpretation, yet has a set plot line. Gualtieri took the serious Macbeth and livened it up into a slightly comedic one-man show.
Located in the Mid/Upper West Side, the Stage Left Studio was surprisingly easy to get to. I was lucky enough to receive tickets from a family friend to see the play, and if you purchase the tickets beforehand (as you are supposed to) your seats will be reserved. The ‘reserved’ seats are first-come seating however, as long as you have your tickets. The small theater which consists of a stage, a door (to a closet?) an entrance, and rows of fold-out chairs is quite cozy considering the gory play is only 90 minutes long. Food and drink are allowed inside, and even sold at the desk when you enter.
The eerie feeling rises in the pit of your stomach even as you step foot into the old, shaded elevator. As you enter into the small lobby, a cheerful woman greets you and lets you in. The back row has taller chairs, letting you perch above the heads of the fellow ‘secret-keepers’ in the crowd. As the lights dim and the music begins, the kind woman who welcomed you introduces the play. Quietly, Gualtieri enters the stage and briefly introduces the play. The first characters he plays are the witches, assigning each character a tell-tale voice or quirk. Lady Macbeth holds her skirt at all times, and Macduff holds his head and chest high.
Though the play is known to be confusing, Gualtieri steps out of character repeatedly to offer guidance and clarification. His breaks from character also provide a quicker synopsis of the classical play. Midway through the performance, Gualtieri takes a full stop and asks for audience participation. He repeats how everyone has their dark secrets, and requests a trying cooperation as he collects the secrets. A more surprising occurrence is when he pulls out another batch of previous secrets, sharing them with the crowd. Some are amusing; some are imaginable. Soon enough, the play returns, finishing the tale of gruesome murder and revenge.
The play ends, and the only difficulty is leaving. With only one elevator, you are required to be patient, but then get to enjoy meeting the cast-Tom Gualtieri-and being able to mingle with other patrons. I recommend the show to anyone above the age of 12, for there is the occasional curse, and Macbeth calls for a disturbing show. “That Play” was recently extended, so take advantage of more shows and find out all the secrets!
[The show is running through July 12. Watch a preview here.]