When a movie is downright awful — and I’m talking groan-inducingly, eye-gougingly horrendous — it can often take on a new life as a campy “cult classic.”
Witness “Showgirls.” “Battlefield Earth.” “Glitter.” “Gigli.” The granddaddy of hokey B-movie gems, Ed Wood’s “Plan 9 from Outer Space.” Anything mocked on “Mystery Science Theatre 3000.” There’s something joyously delicious about watching a cinematic stinker implode onscreen before your eyes.
There is no similar phenomenon in the world of live theater. And that, friends, is a lowdown shame. Because The Shakespeare Company’s gothy, oversexed, laughably lousy current production of “The Tragedy of Macbeth” is an absolute wall-to-wall crack-up.
Take, for example, its title character. Played by pasty, rotund, bald artistic director Wes Martin, clad in a gothic black suit and dorky sunglasses, this Macbeth looks like Uncle Fester as one of Shakespeare’s grandest wicked political climbers.
Which would be giggly enough by itself. But Martin and director D.B. Bailey use every opportunity to let this MacFester crawl over the play’s female characters (his Lady Macbeth, an obnoxious sextuplet of bi-curious witches sporting cheesy Hot Topic naughty goth-wear) in some slimy semblance of sexiness. Take it for its comedy value and you’ll howl your head off. Take it as earnest drama, though, and you’ll want to take a cleansing shower after the show.
Bailey’s tone-deaf ear for Shakespeare’s language and wrongheaded directing choices deserve their own round of giggles. From the discovery of murdered Duncan, orchestrated with all the dramatic heft of those concerned about now having to steam-clean the carpets, to having a mortally wounded Banquo intentionally direct his cry of “O slave!” to the lone black actor on stage — it’s hard to believe anyone in the director’s chair would have meant us to take this seriously.
The Shakespeare Theatre’s production is delivered with all the sincerity that the Bard’s tragedy demands, and the actors are uniformly intense in their roles — if also near-uniformly awful.
Which means this “Macbeth” either belongs among the worst productions of Shakespeare I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen “Twelfth Night” done as a warehouse rave party) or the most sublimely hilarious.
Pick up a ticket and see for yourself; you’ll laugh harder than at a B movie marathon. There’s something so disturbingly fun about seeing one of the Bard’s masterpieces mauled to pieces, I’d be willing to bet The Shakespeare Theatre could have an unintentionally campy cult classic on its hands.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday Where: Phoenix Theatre Little Theatre, 100 E. McDowell Road, Phoenix How much: $15 in advance, $20 at the door
Info: (602) 218-5489