Tracie Merrill | Photo credit: Rick Pollock
Tracie Merrill has previously appeared in DI ESPERIENZA, the SCRIPT-IN-HAND SERIES and a coupla SLAMs for Plan-B. She plays Portia in LADY MACBETH.
As we enter into opening week, I want to make it crystal clear that LADY MACBETH is a play for all theatregoers, not just Shakespeare connoisseurs.
Granted, I am a bit of a Shakespeare geek. Not so much that I sit around reading the Bard’s canon on a Saturday night, mind you, but enough of one that I seek out the productions that make me laugh out loud, audibly gasp, and, believe it or not, make me sit on the edge of my seat. Shakespeare’s text can seem intimidating, but when you come right down to it, they are just stories, and when told with a certain level of cleverness and creativity, it is shocking how understandable the stories are.
For example, when I was a freshman in college, I attended a production of TWELFTH NIGHT at Playmaker’s Repertory Company, the regional theatre associated with the university. I was so shocked at how fun and accessible the play was, that I went back to my dorm room, pulled out a copy of the Complete Works, and checked to see if the text had perhaps been modernized or updated for the show I had just seen. No? How was that possible? I mean, I actually UNDERSTOOD!
And that’s what I mean by geek.
But, since this is a play by Aden Ross and not Shakespeare, what’s to fret, right? As you are already probably aware, Aden has taken 8 characters from 6 different Shakespeare plays, and thrown them into a political farce. Although there are a few references that only the geekiest of Shakespeare geeks may nod their heads knowingly at, you don’t need to be in that club to appreciate the cleverness involved in this theatrical roller coaster. But in case you are looking for a refresher course from your school days, I have created a cheat sheet Below is a five-line-or-less description for each of the plays that Aden has pulled her characters from (the play is listed first and the characters present in our play are noted in parenthesis). Be sure to expect a few twists and turns in our production – Aden’s characters have taken on new lives and roles in LADY MACBETH. But it’s still fun to be a part of the ‘in’ crowd…
MACBETH (Lady Macbeth): Macbeth, with the aid of his ambitious and ruthless wife, Lady Macbeth, plow over anyone in their way of their quest for power in the Scottish Court. The king is stabbed to death by Lady M, when M fails to take care of the deed himself. As cold and cunning as she can be, Lady M is afflicted by nightmares of the deed, causing her to relive the event again and again in a sleepwalking state until she eventually kills herself. Try to guess which political figure is the model for our Lady M.
OTHELLO (Othello & Iago): Iago, an officer in the Italian army, is passed over for promotion. Driven by resentment, he pushes Othello to smother his (that being Othello’s) young, innocent wife with a pillow in a jealous rage. A simple, strawberry spotted handkerchief plays a deadly part in propelling the story forward. It is safe to assume they are not the best of friends.
HAMLET (Gertrude & Ophelia): Hamlet’s father is murdered by his own brother, Claudius. Soon after, Claudius marries his brother’s widow, Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude. Hamlet, obsessed with revenge, breaks off romantic relations with Ophelia, orders her to a nunnery, and accidentally kills her father and her brother, all during his quest to unveil the murderous Claudius. Not a good week for any of them, including Ophelia, who is driven mad and drowns in a nearby river. And it only gets worse.
MERCHANT OF VENICE (Portia): Antonio, whose own fortune is tied up in shipping ventures, takes out a loan to help his friend Bassanio woo Portia, a rich heiress of Venice. Although Bassanio is successful and becomes engaged to Portia, Antonio’s investments have yet to pay off, and he is forced to default on the loan. The penalty – Shylock the Jew may extract a pound of flesh from young Antonio. By dressing as a man and posing as a lawyer, Portia is able to save Antonio’s life. A woman to the rescue? Nice.
TWELFTH NIGHT (Malvolio): Malvolio is the steward of a rich woman who has decreed a seven-year state of mourning in her household after the death of her brother. Such a state of living suits the snobbish and melancholy Malvolio quite well compared to the bumbling cast of characters that surround him in the company of his mistress. Not very popular among his peers, he is tricked into behaving against his norm and dressing in yellow gartered stockings to impress his mistress. Those same peers see to it that Malvolio is locked up for acting insane. While the majority of characters are happily paired off in the end, Malvolio remains friendless and alone (thank you for giving him a second chance, Aden!).
KING LEAR (Fool): King Lear mistakenly divides his kingdom between two of his undeserving daughters, while denouncing the one daughter who truly loves him. The Fool, also a faithful follower to the king, offers the voice of reason. The foolâ€™s freedom lies in his ability to speak the truth, but sadly, no one takes him seriously. King Lear is finally led down a path to madness and death. (Thank you to Jason Tatom for a little extra insight regarding KING LEAR, the play in this grouping that I am least familiar with!).
Our play is much funnier than all this sounds. I swear.
LADY MACBETH by Aden Ross runs October 27-November 6. Purchase tickets here.