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Witches, murders, and a whole lot of booze: Shit-faced Shakespeare’s production of “Macbeth,” which runs until Nov. 18 at The Rockwell, adapts the Bard’s iconic tragedy into a hilariously messy hour of frivolous fun.
Directed by Lewis Ironside, Shit-faced Shakespeare presents “Macbeth” with an abridged and lightly improvised version of the original script and one completely inebriated cast member. All of this mayhem is expertly narrated by the evening’s host, who prepares the audience with some well-timed jokes and hands out props for audience participation.
The Sept. 21st performance saw Banquo (Noelle Scarlett) satisfyingly sloshed, stumbling across the stage and occasionally inserting herself wildly into scenes. In a moment of hot debate between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth only moments after the murder of King Duncan, Banquo trots gleefully onstage, beer in hand, forcing the couple into a bout of impressive improvisation to hide Macbeth’s bloody hands. In a final hurrah before Scarlett’s third onstage death (as three different characters), the actors around her began hitting her with their props, which led to a mutual outburst of laughter.
Shit-faced Shakespeare solidly rests on a crucial tenet: The audience finds drunk people funny, and moreover, they find a certain post-traumatic glee in seeing some of the most well-known, classic lines botched in the name of boozy hilarity. But if audiences tire of the shock factor of watching a professional actor literally stumble on the job, or if they wish to understand the intricacies of “Macbeth,” then they will need to change their expectations, as Shit-faced Shakespeare quickly reveals itself as a farce, and not at all a faithful interpretation.
While only one cast member was inebriated, the rest of the cast was undeniably under the influence of her antics. When any actor interacted with her, there was a serious attempt to stifle laughter. In the scenes where Banquo was not present, the cast reverted back to the traditional drama of The Scottish Play. Liv Dumaine (Lady Macbeth) delivered her soliloquies with enough conviction that the riled up drunken crowd fell silent, and Kody Grassett’s portrayal of Macbeth’s tortured introspection burst through the screwball tone to deliver some poignant drama.
However, it is undeniable that the drunk cast member actively destroyed the cohesion of the performance. The host, in a role that resembled that of a babysitter more than an emcee, had the task of following the intoxicated actor around, at times literally mopping up the mess she made of the play with her perpetually full beer cup. The larger the spill, however, the larger the uproar from the crowd.
Perhaps the most hilarious part of the whole show was found in creative details by the Design Team: Joanne Farwell, Ironside, Brett Milanowski, and Christina Savage. The three witches’ masks and costumes were delightfully creepy: Reminiscent of the horror from the television series “Stranger Things,” the toothy-faced witches dancing around a large plastic cauldron were an unforgettable sight. In addition, the decision to represent young Fleance as a plastic baby doll on a remote-control motorized car added perfect, modest absurdism to an already stripped-down production.
Shit-faced Shakespeare’s production of “Macbeth” offers a riotous way to spend an hour on any evening. While the Shakespearean elements may be incoherent at times, that is not the primary draw of this production. Shakespeare himself would likely appreciate the silliness and irreverence with which his work is treated in this adaptation. It's an ideal choice for a bachelorette party or a night of drunken drama-seeking escapism, where laughter and chaos take center stage, leaving behind the somber complexity of the original tragedy.
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