The Bard of Springfield? America’s favorite dysfunctional family takes a turn at Shakespeare
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 2, 2003
When watching Rick Miller’s version of the Shakespearean tragedy Macbeth, you might be surprised at how much of the Shakespeare play you remember. Do you recall the title character grumbling, &uot;Banquo, stupid Banquo? D’oh!&uot; to his good friend, who responded with &uot;Okely dokely!&uot;? What about the scene where MacDuff gets called away to drink beer while his wife and children are slaughtered?
Don’t ring a bell, do they? Then chances are you’ve never heard of Miller’s MacHomer, in which the Bard’s writings are performed by America’s favorite dysfunctional family, The Simpsons. Last week, Miller, a native of Toronto, brought his 8-year-old production to Hampton’s American Theater.
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The play was born in the summer of 1995, when Miller played a murderer in a Montreal performance of Macbeth. &uot;Somehow, a tragedy always seems funnier backstage than onstage,&uot; he said. &uot;I spent many hours concocting this strange little joke for the cast party: what if the Simpsons were to parody Macbeth?&uot; Over the last week, hundreds of South Hampton Roads residents found out.
&uot;Who here in the last 30 days has watched The Simpsons?&uot; Miller asked a jammed theater before the production began. The crowd thundered with applause.
&uot;How many in the past 30 days has read Macbeth?&uot; he asked. A mere smattering was heard.
The play, which Miller described as &uot;the typical guy-murders-friend-becomes-king-goes-insane-gets-killed story,&uot; began with three witches casting a spell, letting MacHomer know that, one way or another, he would be king. Except in this case, Miller performed the voices of all the characters, and it was Principal Skinner, bartender Moe, and the sea captain (&uot;Arrgh!&uot;) warning MacHomer Simpson, flaunted by his buddy Banquo (Flanders!).
Upon arriving at MacHomer’s castle, the pair was met by Lady MacHomer (Marge Simpson in a way we’ve never seen her before!), who was forming her own plot of murderous royalty. Eventually, MacMarge invites King Duncan and his son Malcolm (Mr. Burns and Smithers in a relationship only slightly different from the one they share on the show!), and convinces her &uot;MacHomie&uot; to ice them (&uot;Infer me from blue hair to toe!&uot; she exclaims.)
Meanwhile, Bart Simpson makes his only appearance, attempting to play Fleance. Unsatisfied with the brief nature of the role, he storms off the stage, leading Flanders to break character long enough to choose the new actor.
&uot;Uh, I could do it,&uot; Milhouse pipes up.
&uot;My name’s Ralph, and I just peed my pants!&uot; announces the clueless Ralph Wiggum.
&uot;Pick me, for I am the one true thespian!&uot; cries Martin Prince, only to be upstaged by Nelson Muntz’s legendary quip, &uot;Ha! ha!&uot; Eventually, Flanders chooses his young son Todd as the new Fleance, and the action resumes.
&uot;Is this a dagger that hastens before me,&uot; MacHomer wonders before the murder weapon, &uot;or it is a pizza? Mmmmm…pizza.&uot;
MacHomer commits the murder, but, not unlike his animated self, loses control of his emotions, prompting MacMarge to spout, &uot;I’ll go smear the dogs with this blood – you go wash your hands,&uot; and blame the King’s hounds for the crime.
Recalling the warlord’s predictions that the royal line would be continued by Banquo’s children, MacHomer hires a trio of killers to take them out. &uot;Tonight, tonight, I’ll kill my friend tonight!&uot; he sings, &uot;and Banquo will be nowhere in sight…cause he’ll be dead!&uot;
The killers, voiced by Apu, Otto the bus driver and Grandpa Simpson, take care of Banquo, but can’t quite grab the offspring. &uot;Oh man, we lost the kid!&uot; Otto exclaims.
Meanwhile, all seems right for MacHomer, who’s celebrating his new crownship with a part. &uot;MacHomie has been fine ever since beer prices went down,&uot; explains MacMarge. Unfortunately, Banquo’s ghost shows up to torment MacHomer, sending him screaming toward the three warlords. &uot;I have to find the weird sisters!&uot; he cries, only to discover Patty and Selma. &uot;Not THOSE weird sisters!&uot;
Once discovering the three wise (wo)men, MacHomer is told of his friend MacDuff, who might just have an agenda all his own. O.J. Simpson shows up, prompting MacHomer to murmur, &uot;You’re a killer, and I’m…a killer.&uot;
Raging, MacHomer storms MacDuff’s castle and wrecks it, killing everyone but MacDuff, who happens to be at Moe’s Tavern wetting his whistle (not surprisingly, he’s voiced by Barney Gumble). Soon, however, MacDuff receives the news from porter Krusty the Clown. &uot;Your wife and children were killed in a flash,&uot; spits the demonic jester. &uot;Why, that Grinch even took the last can of who hash!&uot;
Even in his drunken state, that’s just too much for MacDuff to take. He charges MacHomer, and the bell rings to start the main event. When the battle ends, MacHomer’s life is over, and so is the play.
&uot;But we couldn’t end like that!&uot; Miller told his audience. He launched into a rendition of every Simpsons character that had appeared in the play (dozens) singing &uot;We Are the World.&uot;
The end was near, but it wasn’t here yet. &uot;This is for Sally Struthers and her starving friends in Africa,&uot; Miller announced. &uot;Here we have the final number, which has nothing to do with anything, of the 25 most annoying voices in music singing Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody!’&uot;
As the crowd roared, Miller brought the sounds of Bob Dylan, Michael Bolton, Meatloaf and other of the music world’s voices to the Queen song.
&uot;If I watch anything, it’s The Simpsons,&uot; said Miller, who met the show’s cast during a film festival in Scotland in 2000. &uot;I think that Macbeth and Homer are both tragic figures; they’re heroes, but they’re also cowards. The Simpsons has characters that people really care about. When you put in a tragedy, you don’t always know whether to laugh or feel sorry for them. I think Shakespeare would rather see this than a badly-acted version of Macbeth.&uot;