Review: MacHomer (WRYD Productions)

MacHomer, a blend of 85% Shakespeare’s Macbeth and 15% The Simpsons, played to an appreciative audience last night at Toronto’s Factory Theatre.

This one-man show by Rick Miller was dreamed up while playing Murderer #2 in a Montreal Shakespeare-in-the-park production of Macbeth. What started as a sold-out Fringe show has become a successful play performed for 14 years in over 170 cities.

In this adaptation of Macbeth, Miller impersonates 50 Simpsons voices, and all exceedingly well. Each Simpsons character is assigned a befitting Shakespearean role. He also includes a few non-Simpsons impressions, like Sean Connery, and throws in a couple barbs against Rob Ford and his atrocious Port Lands vision. Miller runs through the play exceedingly fast, barely fitting a breath in between his lines. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought Miller was wired from about ten cans of energy drinks.

This show has some multimedia features that are quite clever and help hold the audience’s attention. I have no doubt that easily distracted students would love this show, considering he has performed this play for high schools and colleges – hint to all you teaching Macbeth to young folks.

Miller is extremely talented and does excellent impressions. His most spot-on ones include Marge, who plays Lady MacHomer, Krusty the Clown, who plays a Porter, and Principal Seymour Skinner, who plays Witch #3. He also portrays Springfield drunk Barney Gumble, a.k.a. MacDuff the Thane of Scotland, with great dimension.

My theatre companion said although she enjoyed it, she felt a bit confused at the start of the play due to all the various voices and characters in the play. She also said that this would be a great play for those who lack a solid attention span. I would have to agree with that, as this show moves quite quickly and is abundant not only in Shakespearean dialogue, but also Simpsons episode jokes and self-referential quips.

To enjoy MacHomer I would you say you need a least a passing interest in Shakespeare, and a love for The Simpsons. It’s not necessary to completely understand what is going on – Elizabethan English can do that to a person’s cognitive capacity – but I do think it helps to have watched The Simpsons on a consistent basis, as there are many jokes that refer to specific Simpsons episodes and gags. Miller even summarizes Act I for us through a puppet video presentation, which is hysterically funny and creative. To fully appreciate this play, however, I think you need a more in-depth knowledge of Macbeth as much of the play’s script is still intact.

When I read the Globe and Mail review about this play prior to watching it, I was concerned that I would not enjoy the show that much. However, I felt that this show was better than the review had suggested. The Simpsons may be old, but they are not forgotten – much like Shakespeare’s works. The show and characters are still a powerful part of pop culture. But the wrestling showdown match did catch me a bit off-guard, as it strikes me as very 1990s – perhaps Miller could update this to a UFC match or something.

Of course, I can’t forget to mention the hilarious encore. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say he includes an extra 25 impressions in there. Everyone in the audience was in hysterics, and I think I laughed the hardest at this bit. Miller’s ability to morph into anyone he chooses is an obvious sign of his great acting talent.

I am delighted to hear that he is performing MacHomer at next year’s Stratford Festival, which will definitely suit the Shakespeare-loving crowd there. I hope that Miller continues to adapt this piece so that it can be performed for another 14 years. He is talented, filled to the brim with energy, and is worthy of performing both MacHomer and Macbeth.