The Simpsons has succeeded for years as a highbrow show operating on a lowbrow frequency -- just base enough to scare away the people who won't get it (they still exist, after all these years) and allusive enough to keep the sprawling masses happy. The same mix of the bawdy and brilliant worked for Shakespeare, which almost seems a ridiculous comparison until you see Rick Miller's MacHomer, a one-man performance of Macbeth voiced entirely as Simpsons characters.
Macbeth, if you don't remember, is the one set in Scotland, land of witches, murder and damned spots; most important, Macbeth boasts a large number of characters, whom Miller fills in with "spot-on impersonations" of recognizable Springfieldians. Homer, then, is the murderous, doughnut-eating Scotsman, and almost the whole of The Simpsons pantheon (some 50 voices) populates the Bard's supernatural tragedy. Who plays Macduff, MacHomer's loyal friend? Barney Gumble. Duncan, the king murdered by MacHomer? Mr. Burns. Malcolm, the king's loyal friend? Smithers, man -- and the logic behind character placement just gets spookier as fat, doughnut-craving MacHomer blunders his way through a script that remains "85 percent Shakespeare." Ex-cellent! (fingers tented)
Native Canadian Miller has staged MacHomer for eight years, and while it isn't the only show in his WYRD Productions repertoire, the speeded-up version of the cursed play is the most successful. Weird marriages of the Bard and contemporary imagery aren't new -- Orson Welles blew the Zeitgeist apart in 1937 and captured the fear of lurking fascism by staging Julius Caesar in jackboots and long coats. Sixty years later, Miller gets us with cartoon characters, which is a hell of a lot funnier, and just as brilliant.
Rick Miller performs MacHomer one night only in the A-B Performance Hall at the Touhill Performing Arts Center (on the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus, 1 University Drive at Natural Bridge Road) at 8 p.m. Friday, May 13. Tickets are $12 to $32 and available online at www.touhill.org or by calling 314-516-4949. For sample hilarity check out www.machomer.com.