What made Macbeth so evil? What drove him to murder for a crown? How are other literary characters faring after their traumatic adventures?
Those questions and more will be answered when the parties involved sit down for a talk show-style interview and therapy session in 3heARTS Productions original play, “Mac…Beth?!,” a comedic re-imagining of the classic tale.
“Mac…beth?!” is set in an alternate universe on a talk show following the events in “Macbeth.” Together, the characters - with the help of a talk show host - attempt to get to the root of why Macbeth murdered for a crown and where the drive for power came from. The story features a number of flashbacks, giving the audience a chance to see these characters as children.
“We definitely take ‘Macbeth’ out of its original setting,” said Shannon McLoud, the play’s co-writer and director. McLoud is also one of the founders of 3heARTS.
The play is only about an hour long, so there is a second act that serves as a second play. One of the characters from the first act joins a group therapy session with other literary and fairy tale characters such as Dorothy, Alice and Hanzel and Gretel.
“I thought the idea of putting Hanzel and Gretel in therapy was too good not to do,” said McLoud.
The idea to re-imagine a Shakespeare classic came to be at a cast party for 3heARTS’ original Christmas play, “Carol’s Christmas” in 2012. McLoud was talking with one of her actors who encouraged her to take a Shakespeare play and make it accessible to everyone.
But after a few months, McLoud hadn’t gotten too far.
That is when Stephen Nani, a parent of one of McLoud’s students at Pumpkin Patch School in North Smithfield, came into the picture.
About a year ago, McLoud and her students put on a production of “The Lorax,” based on the Dr. Suess book. Nani’s son Trent was one of the stars.
Following the play, a group of parents were talking with McLoud about future projects when she mentioned her interest in writing a comedic parody of “Macbeth.”
“We started writing ‘Macbeth’ as a comedy because it is one of the bloodiest plays there is,” said McLoud. “And it’s the shortest.”
Cranston resident Nani was interested in helping her out.
“I love Shakespeare. I’ve done a lot of writing but have never gone anywhere with it,” explained Nani.
The two met up regularly on Friday afternoons with their kids. While the kids played, the adults worked.
“We quickly learned we had the same sense of humor,” said Nani. “It’s natural for us to write together.”
“It was great. We would get together, our kids would play, and we would write and crack each other up,” she said.
The pair was even able to get some movie and pop culture references into the play, including McLoud’s favorite, “Doctor Who,” and Nani’s favorite, “Star Wars.”
“It’s always nice to bring your own spin to things,” said McLoud. “It was fun to do that with such a scary play.”
McLoud compared the humor in “Mac…beth?!” to the Shrek movies. Adults enjoy them because some of the humor is directed to them, but kids will laugh along.
“Not every kid gets the joke, but they still laugh,” said McLoud.
Of course, there are also some references to Shakespeare for those who know the play or other works; there is also a running gag about the actor’s “Curse of Macbeth.”
“From the first line, it’s brought up,” said McLoud.
And for people who don’t like Shakespeare, McLoud and Nani say it is accessible. They did a trial performance in front of an audience of people who didn’t like Shakespeare.
“They laughed, so we decided it wasn’t that bad,” joked McLoud.
McLoud admits the thought of putting a comedic take on one of the world’s most famous plays is petrifying.
“I’m a wannabe English teacher, so I think it is pure golden poetry,” she said.
She said the original play taps into the part of human nature that is drawn to watching calamitous events, like a car accident.
“It’s fascinating to watch people portray these characters. It’s the polar opposite of people you want to be around,” she said.
While some people may not attend the play because “Macbeth” is so highly held, McLoud said they did not try to rewrite a masterpiece and are focused on a fun night for a great cause.
“Shakespeare is the most performed artist ever, but I am confident saying ‘Macbeth’ has never been performed like this before,” said Nani.
Because of 3heARTS, McLoud already had a great cast of actors to slip into the role, including many former students from Pumpkin Patch who are portraying the characters in flashbacks during the play.
Nani especially likes the flashback scene involving three young girls portraying the three witches as children.
“It’s the highlight of the play. It’s just really funny,” he said.
The talk show host is also a highlight, portrayed as a Jerry Springer-esque host thrown into the middle of chaos.
While there are no swears or inappropriate language in the production, McLoud does leave it up to the parent’s discretion to bring children along. Because there are children that perform in the play, she says children will enjoy it and understand some of the jokes but others may go over their heads. It depends on the personality of the child.
“It’s really funny for people who want a good laugh. It’s a lot of fun,” said McLoud.
All 3heARTS productions benefit a charity. This time around, the group is raising money for the Healing Arts program at Lifespan. The program brings art to patients in the various Lifespan hospitals as an additional form of therapy and creative expression for those dealing with injury and illness. Projects include special art projects for the children at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, Bottles of Hope for chemotherapy patients and the Animal Visiting program.
“We read their mission statement online and it was closely related to ours,” said McLoud.
Both organizations aim to use the arts to help people spiritually and emotionally.
“Mac…Beth?!” will be 3heARTS’ fifth production. Previously, they performed a cabaret and have performed a take on “A Christmas Carol” called “Carol’s Christmas.” This was the first time a season has included a third production.
In total, 3heARTS has raised over $5,000 for various charities through their productions. McLoud hopes to raise $1,000 for Healing Arts.
“We’ve pretty much doubled our performances this time,” said McLoud. “I would love to be able to give them a $1,000 check.”
3heARTS will present “Mac…Beth?!” at Tabernacle Baptist Church (182 Seven Mile Road, Hope, R.I.) on Friday, May 23; Saturday, May 24; Friday, May 30; and Saturday May 31 at 8 p.m., with Saturday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 general admission and $8 for students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at www.3heartsproductions.org.
Due to venue size, reservations are strongly recommended. Call McLoud at 206-6604 for more information.