By THE ENTHUSIAST McBeth
Approximately 973 different productions of Macbeth are produced in New York City every year – a rough estimate, to be sure, but it can’t be that far off. The Enthusiast can’t be arsed to actually look up the numbers, but if the Scottish Play isn’t the most frequently staged of The Bard’s greatest hits I’ll eat my tam o' shanter. It takes bollocks, then, to toss yet another Macbeth (or McBeth, as he’s styled here) into the ring, and Scotland, PA (based on the movie of the same name), an insouciantly loose reworking of its source material, is a worthy production number 974.
Jay Armstrong Johnson
Johnson plays Banko, McBeth’s burnout best friend, and his sweet, shy, hopeful, humorous performance is the show’s strongest. Johnson also sings the show’s best song, "Kick-Ass Party," introduced by a charming funny-sad scene in which Banko imagines himself being interviewed by Merv Griffin (Scotland, PA being set in the 1970s, you see). He also gives the play its one moment of genuine pathos during a hunting scene in which Banko reveals that he knows McBeth paid a woman to pretend to like him. You actually see inside Banko’s soul for a second or two before McBeth remembers that he’d better do some killing, pronto, or he’ll never hear the end of it from the missus. Exit Banko, pursued by a shotgun shell.
"That’s Why I Love Football"
Duncan’s glowering son Malcolm is given a song in the second act that has bupkis to do with the story onstage, but it’s the show’s other great number so, hey – you go, Malcolm! The song is "That’s Why I Love Football," and if they don’t add this to the jukebox down at Julius’s on West 10th Street, The Enthusiast will buy a second tam o’ shanter and eat that one, too.
Last seen in Bat Out of Hell, Kaleb Wells gives a standout performance as one of the three witches (here reimagined as three stoners) who foretell McBeth’s fate. Dressed the like the guy who goes to the local renaissance faire so often that you think he must work there but, you know what, he doesn’t, Wells brings a smoky, sinewy intensity to his warlock/stoner. If he told me I’d be Thane ere long, well, dude, I’d believe it.
Nothing By Halves
Props to the Roundabout Theatre Company and Laura Pels Theatre for going all-in on the theme. When you file out after the first act you discover that the lobby has been transformed into a shiny red-and-yellow McBeth’s burger joint, complete with piping hot McBeth’s fries – something the other 973 productions this year were sadly lacking.
The Enthusiast (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the pen name of critic Michael Collins. He reports back only on what’s good, never what’s bad. But what he declines to praise can speak volumes.