Patrick Schmitz turns a lovingly satirical eye towards Shakespeare once more this weekend with his production of The Comedy of Macbeth...Kinda Sorta. The breezy evening of comedy has heart, passion and even a little serious drama mixed in and amidst the spoofery for a roundly enjoyable trip to a fun, little studio theatre space by the highway. A talented cast works with a few props and costuming elements and a few moments of dramatic scoring in the intimate space of the In Tandem’s Tenth Street Theatre for a single weekend’s run.
Schmitz’s script follows an abbreviated form of Shakespeare’s tragedy more or less exactly . . . and that means establishing the mood with the three witches at the top of Act One. Witch-based comedy for Macbeth could go in a lot of directions. Schmitz decides to bring the mysterious women down-to-earth as a trio of sisters making the best of a...weird...situation. Their father was a goat and everyone looks at them funny. Laura Holterman plays comically reluctant witch to the more motivated Stacy Pawlowski and Liv Shircel. The interpersonal dynamic between the three of them is echoed throughout the ensemble in nearly every scene. There’s a real emotional heart to the center of even the silliest, most superficial punchlines, which has grown to be something of a Schmitz trademark over the years.
Beth Lewinsky and Robby McGhee play to the center of the heart of it all as Lady Macbeth and Macbeth. The two towering dramatic characters are given the same casual, earthbound comic treatment as everyone else. Here Schmitz seems to be drawing pretty deftly casual observational moments from his own marriage. It’s all too easy to get lost in the epic-level ambition and malevolence. It’s nice to see Macbeth and Lady M treated as more of a standard married couple. Lewinsky and McGhee have been working together in Milwaukee comedy for long enough over the years that there’s a genuine familiarity between the two of them that adds considerable depth. Lewinsky is allowed a whole range of emotions to work with from love to caring and concern to genuine joy...all of it shining through the set-ups and punchlines that are all delivered to the stage with admirable soul and precision.
Other local comedy veterans in the cast include Tim Higgins as a nuanced Macduff who has the opportunity to play to a number of different comically awkward moments and Kris Puddicombe as an old man cut from the original script who mentions something about a seahorse that everyone keeps talking about. (A recurring joke with a visual gag at the end of the show. Oddly enough one of the few visual gags in a show with a modest budget.)
There may not have been much of a budget, (it’s something that they joke about) but there WAS enough to pay for little Scottish flags which seem to be up more or less everywhere. The one other bit of Scottish flavor in the production comes in from a couple of very, very heavy Scottish accents from Nicolo Onoroto and Rich Laguna as the Scottish noblemen Ross and Angus. The two actors render the spirit of the masses to the stage with clever comic instincts.
My favorite bit of characterization around the edges of the production had Hayley San Fillippo and Josh Decker as a couple of Guards and (later on) a couple of hired Murderers with real hopes, dreams and aspirations beyond their day jobs. The guards are aspiring screenwriters. The Murderers really want to get their rock band back together. We see the ambitions at the center of the comedy echoed in those two characters playing those four characters. San Fillippo and Decker are extremely cute. They give their little quartet of characters some genuine charm to round-out the play.
(And...uh...oh yeah: Marcus Beyer plays Banquo. He’s cool, too. As charismatic as ever. There’s a romantic thing between him and one of the witches. It’s funny.)
Once again, Schmitz puts together a fun Shakespeare spoof. With all the Shakespeare that goes on over the course of a summer, it’s nice to end it with one of these. Thanks again Patrick.
Schmitz ’n Giggles The Comedy of Macbeth...Kinda Sorta runs through Aug. 11 at the Tenth Street Theatre on 628 N, Tenth St. For ticket reservations, visit Brown Paper Tickets online.