Los Angeles Theater Review: SHOTSPEARE PRESENTS MACBETH (Fake Gallery)

Post image for Los Angeles Theater Review: SHOTSPEARE PRESENTS MACBETH (Fake Gallery)

by Jason Rohrer on October 26, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles


The morning after the Thane has killed his king, and one of those epic, omen-riddled Shakespearean storms has ravaged the countryside, Macbeth snaps out my candidate for all-time champion literary understatement: “’Twas a rough night.”  But in a one-hour burlesque of Macbeth that brusquely acknowledges Shakespeare’s contribution, a lot of favorite lines are going to get cut.  I can’t tell you what text Guilford Adams as Macbeth in Shotspeare presents MACBETHShotspeare deleted or kept for last night’s standing-room-only live theater drinking game, because Guilford Adams was so fucked up I couldn’t understand half of what he said.  And that is what I’d come to see, and I was thrilled.

The most fascinating live acts are those with a real risk of failure.  Speaking iambic pentameter, hammered, fits the description.  After flawless swordplay, Mr. Adams slurred his way through the first Weird Sisters scene and seemed on the verge of incapacity (he announced having taken some Vicodin, in addition to the beers the cast drank throughout).  But then he had to down a couple of penalty whiskeys, and the surge of liquor focused his tongue as it glassed over his eyes.  He strutted and fretted through some of the most dramatic scenes ever written, never forgetting his lines no matter how unintelligible or bizarrely intoned, striving through an alcoholic haze to give his character shape, attempting with his remaining faculties to carry the play and serve the moment.  Scoff at your peril.  Heroism is made of such stuff.

Having spun the Wheel of Soliloquy, Mr. Adams was made to stagger through speeches while the audience pelted him with balled-up sweat socks, and while he butt-synced to horrifying fart noises (courtesy stage manager Corey Lynn Womack).  Lady Macbeth (Jennifer Seifert) had to soliloquize about that damned spot while director Matt Morgan stuffed her mouth with saltine crackers and beer.  Matt Morgan and Guilford Adams in Shotspeare's MACBETH.It wasn’t easy for her.  There is nothing effortless about this show.  It is the agony and the ecstasy right there in front of you.  It is work.  And it is funny.

However, gladiators serve at the pleasure of the hoi polloi, and mobs want blood.  Shotspeare audiences always demand, more or less within the bounds of the structure, that the performers drink more than is wise to drink when one is trying not to fall off a stage.  Sometimes the audience cheats, making the actors drink out of turn.  It’s an elemental and naked struggle.  Faith can be broken between stage and seat.  The emotions in the room can become (for fleeting but very real moments) desperate, wounded, hostile.  Most performance art this odd isn’t nearly this much fun.

For those who mostly see classic plays produced as museum pieces, with the actor as docent and director as curator, Shotspeare will open the doors from marbled hall to midway.  Mr. Morgan proves the importance not of novelty with this show, but of specificity, by directing the tragedy as a farcical series of bits, with elements of vaudeville, dance, shadow play, and old-fashioned theatrical imagination.

Shotspeare presents MACBETHLast night’s performance began unevenly, the timing understandably a little befuddled between the inventive set pieces.  And I would argue that this Macbeth explores the human condition with less clarity of vision, less noble intent, than was present in last year’s Romeo and Juliet.  It’s more of an amusement this time, and somewhat less an earnest investigation.  But those well-staged moments, including a Michael Jackson-inspired chase sequence and a real bloodbath of a climax, consistently picked up the collective energy and drove it forward.  It’s the type of show in which a variety of unexpected moments will come up night to night, letting the ephemeral element of performance take center stage.  With actors this committed, and given circumstances this loaded, it’s hard for an adventurous theatergoer to feel slighted no matter what happens.  And tonight’s show will have the bonus element of hangovers.

Guilford Adams as Macbeth in Shotspeare presents MACBETH.photos courtesy Shotspeare

presented by Shotspeare
plays Saturday, October 26, 2013
at Fake Gallery, 4319 Melrose Avenue
plays Thursday, November 7, 2013
at Skinny’s Lounge, 4923 Lankershim Blvd.
for tickets, visit www.shotspeare.com

Comments on this entry are closed.