Don’t use your fake words on me. I answer to a higher law. What do you call that? When you hear God whispering in your ear?
–Aden Ross, 2011
At about the same time, ‘Amerika,’ was given its world premiere by Plan-B Theatre in 2006, Aden Ross had already begun work on a farcical mashup drawing from a dozen or so Shakespearean characters that was inspired, in part, by her deep anger with the Bush administration and frustration at the president’s chronic penchant for malapropisms.
While ‘Amerika’ was a highly successful theatrical manifesto that zeroes in on the dangers of a nation’s ruling class whose abuses of power manage to escape the public’s constant vigilance, ‘Lady Macbeth’ would capitalize upon the subversive potential of blatant absurdity. ‘And as with any human condition Shakespeare tackled in his work, he was absolute genius for showing the timelessness of political ineptitude,’ explains Ross.
‘However, admittedly, my original versions of the play also were more diatribe than true comedy,’ she admits, adding that there probably were too many Bush-like malapropisms which made the play seem more dated than what she intended. The play had been workshopped as part of the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s New American Playwrights Project and last spring as part of Plan-B’s Script-in-Hand series.
Plan-B’s world premiere of ‘Lady Macbeth,’ which begins Thursday, Oct. 27, now promises to be a riotously funny mashup of Shakespeare and the contemporary inanity of American politics that delivers the appropriately subversive polemical punch.
Audience members will immediately get gems such as ‘budget defecations’ and ‘evolution vs. cretinism,’ reminding them of Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin who have taken malapropisms to yet even lower levels than what was imaginable during the Bush years.
They’ll think instantaneously about the current crop of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination when they hear Lady Macbeth say, ‘Remember what you wrote for my campaign speech: “Trust is founded on ignorance.”’ And, the Fool corrects her: ‘Trust. Will founder. On ignorance.’
And, as Andrew Sullivan of The Daily Beast reminds us how Rick Perry is Bush without the conscience or sophistication, Ross’ script has evolved from its formative days during the Bush years into a satirical romp that forces an eye-opening perspective about upon the audience member wondering just how to make sense of the American political enterprise. Never bilious or cruel, the satire easily invites the audience to feel becoming comfortable and confident not only with Shakespeare but also with recognizing and challenging the inauthentic and sly reinventions politicians try to pass off consistently on to the public.
Set in the Scottish court and the nearby forest, the play incorporates an impressive roster of Shakespeare characters and references: Lady Macbeth, the court fool, Iago, Portia, Gertrude, Malvolio, Ophelia, and Othello. In Ross’ hand, some characters such as Iago, Ophelia, and Malvolio get customized treatment.
The storyline goes: Lady Macbeth and her sister, Queen Gertrude of Denmark, have both been widowed recently under suspicious circumstances. Meanwhile, Iago is wandering Birnam Wood in disguise, where he meets Portia, also in disguise; together they spy on Othello, a sexy soldier of fortune whose ship has just been wrecked on the shores of Scotland. Malvolio and Ophelia, members of Gertrude’s court, add to the confusion of mistaken identities, cross-dressing, and separated twins.
One of Ross’ most marvelous elements is ‘Wicked Leaks,’ a play within a play written by the rational Fool. This sets the stage for some of the play’s wittiest moments such as the following:
[Disgust re: the upcoming play.]
We should be mobilizing for war, not watching a bunch of eunuchs playing dress-up.
You can learn a lot from the theater.
GERTRUDE [To OPHELIA.]
Soldiers don’t deal in nuance and latent meanings.
You can’t be latent and be a soldier.
The script demonstrates that Ross, who spent 25 years teaching Shakespeare before deciding to devote her work full time as a playwright and author, sees the value of practicality in creating a fresh perspective of relevance and contemporaneity in appreciating Shakespeare. As easy it is to target the bungling, awkward articulations of Bush, it is more significant to remember that his handlers and political advisers manipulated him because he could not think independently about the most pressing matters of national interest. Indeed, we should know more about Shakespeare, history, culture, and philosophical ethics, but we also need to avoid cultural elitism if we want to challenge the by-products of false consciousness that taint our societies and communities.
Directed by Jerry Rapier, the production features a larger-than-normal cast common for Plan-B plays. The cast includes Kirt Bateman (Malvolio), Joe Debevc (Othello), April Fossen (Gertrude), Tracie Merrill (Portia), Lauren Noll (Ophelia), Jay Perry (Iago), Michelle Peterson (Lady Macbeth) and Jason Tatom (Fool).
Rounding out production duties are Cheryl Ann Cluff (Sound), Curtis Kidd (props), Phillip R. Lowe (costumes), Jesse Portillo (lighting) and Randy Rasmussen (set). Jennifer Freed will serve as stage manager.
The run goes through Nov. 6. Performances will be Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 4 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 and $10 for students. For more information, call 801-355-ARTS or visit here.
The production also received a grant from the Cultural Vision Fund.
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