THUNDER BAY, ON ---- October 27, 2013 -- Rick Miller conceived the idea of “MacHomer” while he was waiting in the wings to perform a minor part of 2nd murderer in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The idea was to poke fun at one of the great works in English literature for a cast party at the end of their production run. With the active encouragement of Matt Groening, creator of the “Simpsons” the show has continued to develop under Wyrd Productions to its present form now playing at ThunderBay, Magnus Theatre.
Taking Shakespeare and immersing his work in various settings other than the medieval Scotland l is something that writers have been doing ever since the play was first produced. Someone in the audience mentioned, “they have just dumbed down Shakespeare to the Grade 6 level.” Certainly the eloquence of Shakespearian English is completely lost as it is morphed into the world of pop culture and the donut eating family of the “Simpsons”. It is in this contrast that Rick Miller hoped to find the seeds of comedy contrasting the seriousness of Shakespeare with the ridiculousness found in the dysfunctional Simpson family. Should you go you might wonder if the production did more for either Shakespeare or for the Simpsons.
Following the hit performance of the “Buddy Holly” show you might wonder what Magnus could possibly programme next that would entice theatre goers to come out to another show. The presentation is made by a single actor on stage played by Jerry Getty and supported by the professional backstage crew of Magnus Theatre. When one actor plays are presented, sorting out the different characters and getting the plot straight can be difficult for the audience. In this production directed by Mario Crudo; technology saves the day. The entire play is set before a giant TV screen, which is fitting for the Simpson’s, and a constant stream of animated video and graphics of the characters are on the screen at the time Jerry Getty is speaking their part. It is as if this was a silent movie and Jerry is providing the voice over for the show. A hybrid play, part movie and part theatre is something new to me and such a production can only be performed in a professional theatre with the equipment needed to blend the two styles of storytelling.
I asked Artistic Director Mario Crudo what the biggest challenge of the show was in terms of blending the technology with the live production was; “getting the timing right between the various segments of the story”. Mario also went on to comment that the theatre made some minor changes to the packaged video in the opening credits of the play.
As always the mood for the performance is set before you even make your way to your seat. The hallways are lined with donut and gumdrop images, and the reception for the gala night feast featured Homer’s favourite donuts, specially prepared for the Theatre by Tim Horton’s and a wide variety of gum-drops and sugar coated candy.
I have mixed feelings about this play, certainly if you are a fan of the Simpson’s then this show would be worth seeing. If you are expecting a new revelation in a Shakespeare play then you would be disappointed. People who would enjoy this show the most are those who are immersed in the television world of the Simpson’s but also have not forgotten some of the Shakespeare that they learned so many years ago. I found the play easy to hear (with a fresh set of hearing-aid batteries) and easy to follow and a new theatre experience.
You can see MacHomer at Magnus Theatre from October 24th through to November 9th. For tickets call the Box Office at 345-5552.