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The Scottish Play

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Lee Blessing's new backstage farce, predicated upon the well-known theatrical superstition about the curse that is supposed to plague productions of Macbeth, presents eccentric characters amusingly portrayed by an excellent cast, wittily costumed by Christal Weatherly, inventively directed by Melia Bensussen. It boasts a physical production that fills the cavernous box of the Potiker Theatre with such felicities as scenic effects designed by Judy Gailen, a sound design by David Remedios, and lighting by Daniel Kotlowtiz that range from subtle to spectacular.

Blessing's script initially shows promise. In the classic manner of farce, the hapless protagonist, Jack—newly appointed director of Michigan's Northermost Shakespeare Festival, played with earnest nerves by Jere Burns—experiences the dissolution of his orderly world into comic chaos. Jack's fate fittingly mocks the fall of a tragic hero as he fecklessly defies the curse—or "kess" as his nemesis Billy, the demoted former director, hilariously portrayed by Peter Bartlett, pronounces it in his fruity version of a British accent. Billy engages Jack's three ex-wives to play the witches, deliciously delineated by Susan Knight as the fuming first wife and mother of Jack's son (Morgan Hollingsworth); Rebecca Wisocky as his formidably intense and psychobabbling second wife; and Bridget Regan as the third, a ditzy ingénue hottie. The brew is further bubbled by festival founder Alex (John C. Vennema) persuading a vain, clueless Hollywood star (Erik Heger) to play Macbeth. Ancillary complications include the frustrated romantic pursuit of Jack's obsessively devoted assistant (Dianna Ruppe) by the actor playing Banquo (Robert L. Devaney).

Blessing's contribution to the subgenre of backstage farce falters and finally degenerates into reliance upon accidents and natural disasters, rather than following the consequences of situations arising from character, which is the basis of farce. The remarkable stage catastrophe, cooked up for The Scottish Play's climax, may be technically impressive and scary enough to justify the ticket price, but it's more akin to an amusement park ride than to a play. Nevertheless this imperfect show provides several pleasures, including original music by Michael Roth that would honor a production of the real Macbeth, remarkably performed live by one-man band Morris S. Palter on a flabbergasting collection. Whaur's yer Wullie Shakespeare noo?

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