Kaleb Wells, Wonu Ogunfowora, Alysha Umphress & Ryan McCartan in Scotland, PA

Review of Roundabout Theatre Company's Scotland, PA at Laura Pels Theatre

Tulis McCall
Tulis McCall

Let's start with the premise. Scotland, PA, now playing at the Laura Pels Theatre, is a musical parody of Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Macbeth.

Go ahead and read that sentence again. It doesn't change. Would that it did.

This is yet another in the list of "Never blame the actors" (said by John Randolph) productions. The cast is an extremely talented and committed group of actors and singers. Some of the singing is downright sublime.

There ends the good news.

This is the story of a young couple, Mac (Ryan McCartan) and his wife Pat (Taylor Iman Jones) who want to achieve fast-food dominance in the town of Scotland, PA (Scotland - get it?). They are a seriously adorable couple who, for no apparent reason, turn on a dime and change from being the sweetest couple that you ever did see, into a couple whose ruthlessness and treachery rival Lord and Lady You-Know-Who.

To tie the wisps of a story line together, the author decided to parody the Scottish Play.

Scotland, PA is an actual township with a population of 1,400. The first to be bumped off by the hamburger-driven couple is Duncan (Jeb Brown) the owner of the local burger shack who will listen to no idea for improvement. This death is an accident that whets Mac and Pat's appetite for owning a joint whose logo is not golden arches but golden Mountain tops in the form of a giant "M". M for McBeth's Burgers (get that one too?). This name is okay to say out loud.

We are let in on where this story is going from the get-go as the three Stoners (Wonu Ogunfowora, Alysha Umphress and Kaleb Wells) spend their time as the designated chorus singing and vaping (Has no one listened to the epidemic of lung disease from vaping...?) or just plain old smoking pot. Lots and lots of it. Like the three witches, they offer predictions as to the demise of their favorite protagonist turned antagonist. One by one the clues prove true, and as they do, the world begins to close in around our unhappy couple. As Mac goes, so goes Pat whose pesky hand wounds will not heal. Her solution is extreme, and she ends up like her role model.

This show, if given the opportunity, could have slid over into the whacky world of serious satire. Little Shop of Horrors comes to mind. Monty Python. Good grief there are tons of examples. Instead of following in these footsteps, however, Michael Mitnick wrote a show that veers off the path of satire, lands squarely in the middle of a swamp and sinks. The music - albeit beautifully delivered, is 100% angst-light. All pop with a heavy beat, or sentimental, or dotted with mystifying lyrics such as, "Looking at you, I am Clairvoyant".

The cast and orchestra do not falter for a nano-second. They are all talented and dedicated. I look forward to seeing any and all of them in another production that does justice to their many excellent talents. As for this one, I was just happy to get out alive.

(Photo by Nina Goodheart)

"Scotland, PA — in which the witches, happily, are stoners instead — turns out to add some delicious value to both the original play and the film. Its smart book (by Michael Mitnick) and agreeable songs (by Adam Gwon) are often laugh-out-loud funny, something no one ever said about the version that opened in 1606. The show, directed by Lonny Price, is also quietly insightful, making piquant connections between Shakespeare's drama of political powerlust and the consumerist mania of our own fast-food culture."
Jesse Green for New York Times

"Gwon's score sticks to agreeable soft rock and even Mitnick's best jokes are low-hanging. Director Lonny Price goes for a B-horror vibe, but doesn't achieve the alchemy that might have turned trashy tragedy into camp. As is, the show is a less than happy meal."
Naveen Kumar for Time Out New York

"The new stage show takes the 2001 movie and makes it as witty and fun as a McDonald's commercial from 1975."
Robert Hofler for The Wrap

"Cult musicals, like cult movies, are best enjoyed when they're fresh discoveries. That lesson was ignored by the creators of the musical adaptation of Billy Morrissette's 2001 dark comedy Scotland, PA., itself inspired by Shakespeare's Macbeth. Despite very mixed reviews, the film, which premiered in competition at the Sundance Film Festival and starred James LeGros, Maura Tierney and Christopher Walken, went on to achieve a minor following. Now, Scotland, PA has arrived as an off-Broadway musical that desperately tries to emulate the status of its inspiration. Unfortunately, for every comparably styled success like Little Shop of Horrors, there are many more failures, including the musical adaptations of Eating RaoulHarold and Maude and, of course, Carrie. This show, featuring a book by Michael Mitnick (Sex Lives of Our Parents) and score by Adam Gwon (Ordinary Days) is hardly a disaster of such proportions, but it is never more than forgettable."
Frank Scheck for Hollywood Reporter


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