Story: This re-telling of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy Macbeth incorporates passages from other books to present a restructured, reformulated approach to the ambitious lord who did “murder sleep” to satiate his thirst for power.
Lady Macbeth welcomes guests to a formal dinner party hosted by her and her husband, where King Duncan and another lord, Banquo, dine unaware of their impending deaths. Having been foretold of his future by three witches who appear as refined ladies of the ‘50s (named after sitcom homemakers), Macbeth misinterprets their words and joins his wife on a murderous spree that ends badly for all involved.
The re-imagined script includes sundry references to Emily Post’s book Etiquette, the Book of Revelations from the New Testament, Dr. Benjamin Spock’s Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and various advertisements from the decade of the 1950s that presaged the turbulent, Mad Men-era that followed.
Highlights: Cleverly constructed and cheerily performed save the Macbeths descent into self-destruction, Trash Macbeth is a delightful blend of one of The Bard’s most famous tragedies with odd but curiously delightful contributions from what Equally Represented Arts terms “the societal norms of America’s most traditional era.” It’s both imaginative and engaging theater that shows how Shakespeare has remained relevant through the centuries.
Other Info: Although the conceit grows a bit weary in the final quarter of this one-act production, Trash Macbeth is a hoot and a half for the audience and doubtless for the cast as well. Audience members are given roles to play before they enter and then welcomed by Lady Macbeth (Rachel Tibbetts) to her dining party, intricately prepared by none other than Emily Post (Ellie Schwetye), who assigns ‘guests’ in her haughty fashion to their appropriate seats, either at the table or along two walls to observe the meal and other activities, some deadly.
The dining table conceit on The Chapel floor, including two large monogrammed M’s at either end, is courtesy of scenic designers Kristin Cassidy, Wilson Webel and ERA artistic director Lucy Cashion, who also directs this entertaining extravaganza. Costume designer Meredith LaBounty uses recycled materials for some of the cast’s amusing attire, especially Tibbett’s dress derived from Brillo printed pieces, while the guys are resplendent in their black-tie formal wear.
Composer, musical arranger and musician Joe Taylor, assisted by musician Philip Zahnd, sits at the right of the stage at the far end of The Chapel performing area, adding an offbeat score as well as some dialogue at one point. His stage right space serves as sanctuary at times for Lady Macbeth as she descends into insanity, something she does completely as she staggers across the the table to her death.
That’s followed by a sword fight between Macbeth and Macduff, again on the top of the table, to fight choreography designed by Erik Kuhn, who doubles as lighting designer, before they continue battle around the table and on stage.
Highlights include the whimsical references to TV ads from the 1950s, with our trio of homemakers/witches spouting the benefits of Dial soap (more than any other brand name) and other must-have products for the suburban mom of the times. Tibbetts, Schwetye and Maggie Conroy are equally adept at handling the earnest delivery of antiquated dialogue while puffing away incessantly on their omnipresent cigarettes.
There are two scrolls of paper at either end of the stage where players strike off the names of characters slain in the course of bloody, bloody Macbeth. Mitch Eagles plays the title role, sometimes more effectively than others, and Carl Overly Jr. is a convincing Macduff, particularly when informed of the grisly murders of his entire family “in one fell swoop.”
Nic Tayburn serves fittingly as Banquo, while Conroy is convincing as Lady Macduff, seemingly always in a family way.
Even knowing the story of Macbeth, Cashion keeps her audience guessing what might happen next in the witty and whimsical Trash Macbeth. You might even get a glass of complimentary wine to savor at the ‘party.’
Play: Trash Macbeth
Company: Equally Represented Arts
Venue: The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drive
Dates: April 27, 28, 29, 30, May 1, 4, 5, 6, 7
Tickets: $15-$20; contact www.artful.ly/era
Rating: A 4.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photos courtesy of Equally Represented Arts