|Andrew Lindemann Malone's Internet Playpen|
"MacHomer: 'The Simpsons' Do Macbeth" is exactly what it sounds like: America's favorite dysfunctional family, sent back to fictional eleventh-century Scotland to have its way with that most immortal of bards, William "Big Willie" Shakespeare. And yet, there's more: One intrepid Canadian actor named Rick Miller handles all the action. He's mastered fifty - fifty! - "Simpsons" voices and found places for them all in what once was a twelve-character play. And even with this surplus of characters, he has cut and sped up the play to such a degree that he can do two shows a night with time for encores.
All in all, then, the perfect choice for the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center's student event during that edifice's Dedication Week last year. Unfortunately, the performance was scheduled for September 24, [the day a tornado ripped through our campus, killing two students and blowing out windows in the Performing Arts Center]. Fortunately, Miller agreed to come back while he's in town at the Kennedy Center (the man's becoming a star!) and do two semester-opening shows on Wednesday at 7 and 9 pm in the Kay Theatre. Let's all cross our fingers so that no natural disasters disrupt the collision between high culture and low comedy this time.
Last semester, Miller agreed to do an interview to clear up a few questions, like how the hell anyone could possibly come up with this idea. He explains it thusly: "I was performing in Macbeth right out of school in 1994. I was playing Murderer #2, and I had a lot of time on my hands, and basically decided to make fun of our cast with a little cast party spoof. And that's where MacHomer came from.
"In its initial stages, it really was a ten-minute joke, and then I decided to just complete a whole production of Macbeth - of course, an edited production of Macbeth, but just follow through with the whole thing and see if it held up. And it did. I've performed it several hundred times, in various incarnations.
"Part of the reason I did it was that people were very excited to see what I could do with a one-hour production of it, which is what it eventually became. And the opening show was sold out, so you can tell people were curious to see what would happen."
So, how did Miller decide how to cast this production of "Macbeth"? "It was trial and error at first," Miller says. "Some of them really screamed to be cast - Homer and Marge, of course, as a dysfunctional family playing another dysfunctional family, worked really well as Macbeth and Lady. King Duncan takes on a slightly more evil twinge when he's being played by Mr. Burns, and hence his son Malcom is played by Smithers, so that sets up a homoerotic thing. Barney as Macduff has a little more weight and a little more pathos, which suits Macduff quite well. He's also potentially a warrior, which makes the fight between the two of them at the end a sort of big WWF wrestling match.
"Ned Flanders as Banquo suits pretty well because Homer ends up killing him. And for example, I don't do Bart very well, so I have to kill Bart off very quickly, so I have him playing Fleance. Then he leaves because he finds it boring, so I get to bring in a whole bunch of other characters as understudies.
"The part where my writing came across was in the adaptation and in the mangling of the Shakespeare when in the hands of Homer, for example. A dagger becomes a pizza, and that type of scenario.
"I find it's most successful for me, in any case, when the tragedy and the comedy of it are sort of thrust together. For example, near the end of the play, after you've gotten over the fact that yes, there's one guy doing all these voices, you slip into the story a little more. And then when Barney, or Macduff's, children get killed, there's that scene where Ross tells Macduff. It's quite tragic in normal circumstances, and I do make light of it, but there are times in there where Barney is crying. And I can tell the audience is slipping into that zone which I like a lot. So yes, there are points where the tragedy comes through. And then of course I yank them back out of it by being silly."
But the real test is: Can Miller actually do all the voices? "There are certain people who can do individual voices better than I can," Miller admits, "but I haven't met anyone who can do all the voices pretty well. Some of the voices I thrown in are pretty short and I get them in for one line. Usually people are pretty impressed.
"It was a bit of a challenge to not only mimic them, but have them speaking Shakespearean dialogue, which is hard enough as an actor. And not only having them speak, but switching from one voice to another. I haven't met anyone who can switch from Homer to Marge." Miller was kind enough to do some voices for me at the end of our phone interview, and as someone who has every episode of "The Simpsons" on tape, I can attest that he is the real deal.
And Miller was excited to be here, so much so that in September he did a little performance (as much as he could do without special effects) for those who were captives of the Smith Center after the tornado hit. "I love having full, rowdy houses," he said last fall after I informed him of Maryland spectating habits. "To have a rowdy crowd of people who are fresh with 'The Simpsons' and hopefully Macbeth is really ideal. I think we're in a 600-seat venue, and if that's full, that's fantastic. It's a great size for the show. There's a big video screen and a live feed and a lot of stuff to bring it up to a certain scale, and I think 600 is going to be perfect." So get your free tickets, show up ready to yell, and hope for clear skies on Wednesday.
All this tasty writing ©2002-11 by Andrew Lindemann Malone. All rights reserved.