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      McBeth — Over 2 Million Slain
    Ancient grease

    The Fringe-Fest happy meal "McBeth — Over 2 Million Slain," littering Shakespeare's tragedy with the detritus of the fast-food industry, is not exactly the best way to see "Macbeth" but it is a giddy variation on a classic.


    What is it about Shakespeare's "Macbeth" and fast food that's getting them paired up like the components of a Happy Meal?

    Last year the movie "Scotland, PA" put a comic spin on the Scottish play, setting it in 1975, as the McBeths transformed their former employer Duncan's restaurant into a fast-food empire. Now the Fringe Festival serves up a meal of classical theater and contemporary sociology with "McBeth — Over 2 Million Slain."

    Company: Ideal Theatricals.
    Written by: William Shakespeare.
    Directed by: Kevin Shinick.
    Cast: Brooke Behmke, Carri Brown, Jennifer Carta, Craig Dudley, Maria Gabriele, David Hutson, Don Johanson, Ron McClary, Laura Napoli, Postell Pringle, Kevin Shinick, Dayna Steinfeld, Michael Suvorov, Tom Trudgeon.
    Sound design by: Robert Gould.
    Set design by: Michael Allen.
    Costumes by: Christine Field.
    Lighting/projection design by: Michael Clark.
    Greenwich House Theater
    Aug. 8-24, 2003

    Using Shakespeare's text (though edited down to slightly under two hours) and projecting onto the stage between scenes statements that probably came from best-selling nonfiction book "Fast Food Nation," director Kevin Shinick's interpretation turns tragedy into satire and the battle between Macbeth and Duncan for the Scottish throne into a clash between Ronald McDonald and Colonel Sanders for ruler of the fast-food world.

    What, not Burger King? Well, there's historical justification for this choice: In the '50s and '60s, we're told via projection, Kentucky Fried Chicken was the largest U.S. fast-food chain before McDonald's usurped its position.

    Actors are costumed according to their characters (kudos to Christine Field for detailed design). It's bizarrely fascinating to see a serious performance of Macbeth (played by the director) delivered by a guy in a yellow jumpsuit and long red shoes who has bright red hair and a white face. Not to mention a Macduff in a paper Burger King crown eloquently mourning the loss of "all my pretty ones," after a pair of Hamburglars offs his family.

    The three witches are an ode to Grimace — in pseudo-Hawaiian skirts, each covered with a pair of big, round eyes — and it's from them that Macbeth gets the idea for his meat-filled monarchy. (So that's where the sinfully addictive Big Mac's special sauce comes from!)

    Without altering Shakespeare's words, Shinick works in his message about the harmful impact of fast food on our bodies and in society. Beyond projected assertions about marketing fast food to children and how McDonald's arches are more widely recognized than the Christian cross, there's a scene in which the witches concoct a McRecipe by throwing snakes and bugs into a pot and another that features employees in the men's room coping with the gastronomical effects of fast food.

    While this amusing concept has its enjoyments, it does detract from the emotional resonance of the play. Thanks to a talented 17-person ensemble — buoyed especially by Shinick's Macbeth, Brooke Behmke's Macduff, Jennifer Carta's Lady Macbeth and Ron McCalry's Banquo — this production could be engaging even without its ideological slant. And all the fast-food containers and brand-name recognition flooding the stage actually might be good publicity for the industry, though you might want salad as your first after-show meal.

    AUGUST 26, 2003

    Reader comments on McBeth — Over 2 Million Slain:

  • JENNIFER CARTA   from MARYANN, Oct 30, 2003
  • [no subject]   from linas, Mar 7, 2007
  • [no subject]   from , Oct 12, 2007

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