Reviewed by Eric Grode
Presented by Tiny Ninja Theater at Present Company Artspace, 198 Stanton St., NYC, Aug. 16-27.
The members of Tiny Ninja Theater may only be 1 inch tall, but they have big dreams. If their hilarious production of "Macbeth" is any indication, these angry-looking plastic assassins may well be reinventing the way we look at the classics. Until the Royal Shakespeare Company moves ahead with its plans for a repertory flea circus, this is, inch for inch, the most satisfying Shakespeare production in town.
The ninjas, which number more than 100, can't take all the credit: Director/puppeteer Dov Weinstein manipulates and gives stirring voice to all of them, and Mr. and Mrs. Smile (two schmoo-like smiley faces with torsos) are splendid as the murderous couple. Like the matinee stars of yore, the Smiles generally stand down center and, at about 2 inches, tower over the supporting players.
Weinstein, who does a superb job performing all of the roles, has condensed the entire play into about 35 minutes. Only the most essential scenes are retained, leaving many of the minor characters somewhat underdeveloped. (It doesn't help that they are all tiny ninjas and look quite similar.) Weinstein has mastered the time-honored problem of getting actors on and off stage for the big crowd scenes; with one gratifyingly destructive sweep of his hand, dozens of ninjas vanish off the briefcase-size stage.
The occasional use of a penlight adds considerable mood to the appearance of the three witches, as well as Banquo's ghost. The only real complaint is the tiny space—no more than 15 audience members can watch the dozens of diminutive performers at any one performance. Perhaps the use of giant TV screens would help Tiny Ninja Theater's future productions ("The Three Sisters" and "Desire Under the Elms" are promised) reach the audiences it so richly deserves.