Celeste Moratti As Lady Macbeth

NEW YORK -- We live in an age where our leaders convince people that made-up things are really true. That's what witches do. So the Witches are the preoccupation of First Maria Ensemble's upcoming production of "Macbeth," directed by Celeste Moratti, to be presented December 6 to 21 at Teatro Circulo, 64 East 4th Street. The company made an auspicious debut in 2016 with "Hamlet," which Theater Pizazz (JK Clarke) called one of the season's best small-company productions of Shakespeare plays and Front Row Center (Holli Harms) added, "Here is hoping that Celeste Moratti continues on this trajectory of directorial discoveries."

According to Moratti, in "Macbeth" two forces spring from each other and intermingle. First is the underworld of the witches, which moves in lockstep with the wilderness and darkness surrounding the play. Second is the agony of the title characters, who are dealing with life’s most painful wound: the loss of a child. Their fusion kindles a series of destructive self-fulfilling prophecies, throwing an entire country into a dysfunctional spiral that is powered by what Lord Macbeth describes as his "vaulting ambition."

Moratti, who also plays Lady Macbeth, holds that the loss of a child is the catalyst to the tragedy. She explains that Lady Macbeth is in extremis from three miseries: the physical pain of being unable to nurse, the grief of loss itself, and the loneliness of having her husband in battle. The idea of a political plot against Duncan seizes her as a way for the couple to start life over. She decides to focus on their new future when she hears of the Witches' prophesies. Lord Macbeth is similarly keen for a new start and also jealous of any man who has sons. That is why he will kill not only Macduff's wife but also his heirs. Without a son, Lord Macbeth has no legacy and he is tortured to think that Banquo's legacy will live on while his will not.

The function of the Witches is to convince people that things which are made up are actually happening. They give Macbeth a suggestion here, a nudge there, but he curses himself by believing what is implanted into his head. This, according to Moratti, evokes what happens on a national level today, as when evanescent social media posts by Russian trolls drive our politics or when somebody yells "the immigrants are coming" and America sends the troops in. Moratti points out, though, that Macbeth is infinitely more dignified than Trump, whom she compares more to a Marlow character. Nevertheless, Shakespeare's portrait of a tyrant unable to manage his powers rings true today, as when Malcolm observes that Macbeth's royal clothes hang on him like an adult's dress on a toddler, or in the Bard's words, "Now does he feel his title hang loose about him, like a giant's robe upon a dwarfish thief."

So the moral of the production (if there's only one) is that we curse ourselves by believing what someone puts in our heads. This perspective makes the Witches so important in the play that the entire company has to play them and they become an omni-present counterpoint to the action. Physically, they are rendered like puppets as actors animate stretchy fabrics surrounding the stage, becoming literally the surrounding world. In Shakespeare's text, the Witches speak in different rhythm from the humans--in four measures, not five per line. So the ensemble is developing choral work for the Witches in collaboration with Italian musicians/actors Francesco Santalucia and Papaceccio to give their musical rhythmic world a "tongue" of its own.

The principals are Tristan Colton as Macbeth, Celeste Moratti as Lady Macbeth, Doug Durlacher as Duncan, Silas Gordon Brigham as Malcolm, Audrey Tchoukoua as Banquo, Nicholas Wilder as Macduff, Collin McConnell as Ross, Laura Montes as Lennox, Nina Ashe as Lady Macduff, Fleance and Donelbain and John Hardin as Seyton/Porter and Captain. The Witches, Hecate and Apparitions are played by the entire ensemble. Set and costume design are by Raffaella Toni. Lighting design is by Pamela Chisling. Vocal coach is Silas Gordon Brigham. Sound design is by Francesco Santalucia. Ensemble direction is by Papaceccio. Choreography is by Nina Ashe. Stage Manager is Paige Carter.

Celeste Moratti (Director & Lady Macbeth) made an auspicious directorial debut in 2016 with "Hamlet," produced by her First Maria Ensemble at Teatro Circulo. Theater Pizazz (JK Clarke) declared, "This season has seen a lot of good small-company productions of Shakespeare plays, and First Maria’s 'Hamlet' is one of the best." Front Row Center (Holli Harms) added, "Here is hoping that Celeste Moratti continues on this trajectory of directorial discoveries." Beside directing it, Moratti played Gertrude in the production. She is Italian-born and her vision is informed by her work at La MaMa and The Living Theater. Before diversifying into directing, she was noted for both realistic and surrealistic acting roles in the "Pathological Theater" productions of Dario D'Ambrosi. She first achieved widespread acclaim for her starring role in "Days of Antonio" (La MaMa, 2007), a play based on the real incident of an insane boy who had been raised in a henhouse. The New York Times (Jason Zinoman) credited her with "a boldly feral performance of a boy stuck between the worlds of the sane and the mentally ill and the human and the animal." She reprised this role in the play's film rendition, which was completed in Italy in 2010. In July 2009, she starred in a realistic thriller by D'Ambrosi, "Night Lights," which was a site-specific performance on the block between Washington Street between Spring Street and Canal Street in SoHo. The play portrayed a precarious liaison between a female university professor and a male ex-convict in a city street. It inaugurated an original genre of live performance called The Drive-In Stage™, in which the audience of 40 viewed the live action from within parked cars, listening with headsets. In 2012, she played the title character in D'Ambrosi's version of Euripides' "Medea" at Wilton's Music Hall in London and at La MaMa, NYC. That production won the Wilton Prize 2012/13 as the best show of the season. She is a member of The Living Theater, which which she performed "Red Noir," directed by Judith Malina in 2009. She is a graduate of the Stella Adler Conservatory, NYC and has also appeared OOB at Medicine Show Theatre, ADK Shakespeare Company and Titan Theatre Company. Her films also include "L'Uomo Gallo" by Dario D'Ambrosi (2010), "My Mother’s Fairy Tales" by Paola Romagnani (Simmia Productions, 2006), "Fight the Panda Syndicate" by Jason J. Dale (Crazy Elk Productions, 2009) and "Traffickers" by Sean F. Roberts, Jr. (Pitbull Shadow Productions, 2014), which she co-produced. It was an official selection of the prestigious Courmayeur Noir Film Festival in December 2015.