Sketchy Stuff

Buntport's Macblank, while funny, feels like an extended skit.

In putting together their original comedy Macblank, the folks at Buntport relied on the theatrical superstition that there's a curse on Shakespeare's Macbeth and that those performing it are in danger of unknown catastrophe. There really are actors who refuse to speak the play's title in a theater, and it's well known in theatrical circles that if the name has been spoken, the speaker must turn three times and spit over his left shoulder. Or quote a line from A Midsummer Night's Dream. Or something like that.

Macblank involves a company of five that is developing an experimental version of "The Scottish Play," and their curse is Beth, played by Erin Rollman, who's both the most superstitious and the most murderously ambitious member of the cast. Beth is blind, self-righteous, a whiner and a bully. She's followed everywhere by devoted Greg (Evan Weissman), who's given to quoting outworn proverbs and uttering strange non sequiturs. Hannah Duggan's Miranda tries to serve as the voice of reason, but she only becomes genuinely animated and involved when describing her own life, whose turns and twists mirror several of Shakespeare's plots. Brian Colonna is Rob, who lives a typical actor's life. That is, he works six jobs, arriving at the theater exhausted to watch in horror as everything falls apart. And, of course, there's the company star, the guy with the phony British accent: Ryan, as played by Erik Edborg.

These are smart, inspired and highly original comics, and their audacity alone has the audience spluttering with laughter. Beth recites, with profound satisfaction, example after example of problems attending Macbethproductions (she knows, because she's Googled the topic); consults her horoscope in Cosmopolitan for hints that she, not Ryan, should be playing the lead; ignores lovelorn Greg; and wields a baseball bat with fiendish determination. Miranda glows as she describes a boyfriend "hung like a donkey," a cousin who was served gerbils baked in a pie, and the time she accidentally made out with "a girl dressed as a guy." The best monologue is delivered by Greg, who describes his childhood performing experiences in a meaningless mishmash of sense and sentiment that includes memories of his grandmother's gifts of packets of saccharin. This is the kind of odd, discursive humor pioneered by the late, lamented Andy Kaufman -- except that where Kaufman, under his mask of innocent passivity, was clearly a hostile character, Weissman's Greg is all shiny-eyed ignorant sweetness.

Buntport opened two shows in tandem this season. The first, Kafka on Ice, is brilliant, while Macblank shows signs of being hastily put together. Edborg, in particular, seems to only half inhabit his role. Ryan is fascinating at the beginning, and Edborg certainly rises to all the big comic moments, including a brilliantly uninhibited rendition of Puck's epilogue in Midsummer Night's Dream, but the English accent comes and goes, and when Ryan sustains a leg injury, Edborg can't even be bothered to limp, climbing onto a chair with the supposedly injured limb taking all the weight -- an Acting 101 mistake.

Macblank is more an extended comedy sketch -- albeit a sophisticated one -- than a play. After a while, the humor begins to feel a little repetitive, and you want a trace of plot and some character development. Still, even though this show lacks the inventiveness of Kafka on Ice, it makes for an entertaining evening.

 
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