The timeless works of William Shakespeare have been brought to life in theater and cinema for centuries. Now, NJIT and Rutgers will adapt one of his greatest plays, “Macbeth.” From November 13 to 17 at the Jim Wise Theater, you can witness NJIT and Rutgers students breathe new life into one of the greatest tragedies ever written.
“Macbeth” is a story about how once-good people can fall and become a villain, a story which has been echoed throughout all of history. The character of Macbeth, motivated by his wife after receiving a prophecy, murders the King of Scotland and usurps the throne for himself. Stricken with guilt and paranoia, Macbeth and his Lady plunge into the depths of madness and tyranny as civil war breaks out. Shakespeare based the story off of the historical accounts of Macbeth and the King of Scotland as written in Holinshed’s Chronicles.
We all remember having to sit through reading Shakespeare plays in high school. That experience can often give people an aversion to his stories, as many only look at the plays through the lens of boring stories that can barely be understood. However, it is important to keep in mind that Shakespeare’s plays were incredibly popular in his time for a reason. They were huge cultural spectacles like the Avengers movies are for us today, except on a much more local scale. Shakespeare commented upon historical events relevant to the British public in hyper-dramatized events. His work was Game of Thrones, but for the 1600s.
This production of Macbeth is directed by Louis Wells, who also directed a Rutgers production of Our Lady of 121st Street. Wells stated that Macbeth will be “big, fun, smart and dumb.” The director wants people to have a good time with the play and walk away saying “I didn’t think I’d understand, but I did.” As such, the original play’s story is being cut down a bit in order to make it more fast-paced and exciting. The Macbeth production is being constructed in such a way that people who are normally averse to Shakespeare can feel at ease with the material.
Excitement is a key word to keep in mind when approaching this play. The production hired Mitch McCoy, a professional fight choreographer from New York, to coordinate the action scenes. There are several fight scenes within the play, including Macbeth’s one-on-one fight with Macduff. Perhaps most impressively, there’s an action scene in which eight characters are fighting at once.
The play also makes some bold decisions with casting. Some of the characters are played by actors of the opposite sex from the original play. Most notably, Macduff, a male character, is played by actress Kaylin Wittmeyer. However, the lead characters, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, were cast with actors matching the sex of the characters. Gabriela Acosta and Adam Hassan are playing Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, respectively.
The decision to cast Macduff as a female actor was done to highlight the absurdity of gender roles. Originally, the plan was to gender swap all the characters, but this was scrapped as it was thought to raise more questions with the audience than necessary. As the director says, shows often reveal the talents of students, whose personal takes on the characters can take on lives of their own. This means that, when casting, each actor has to play to their strengths.
Macbeth is a play that should not be passed over. A lot of effort from the cast and crew is being put into the production to make it fun, thought-provoking and exciting for the audience. Director Louis Wells hopes the play “reveals the human condition to them in a way that feels true and worthy of their time.”