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Off-Broadway Review: “Scotland, PA” at Roundabout Theatre Company’s Laura Pels Theatre in the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre (Through Sunday December 8, 2019)

Off-Broadway Review: “Scotland, PA” at Roundabout Theatre Company’s Laura Pels Theatre in the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre (Through Sunday December 8, 2019)
Book by Michael Mitnick
Music and Lyrics by Adam Gwon
Directed by Lonny Price
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Bloody, gory, horror films certainly have been around for quite a while and have been successful in creating a cult audience that supports the genre. Transforming one of these for the stage would certainly be an audacious task. To go one step further, choose the horrific tale of Macbeth penned by William Shakespeare and take some extreme liberties to create a stage musical comedy filled with blood, violence and production numbers is downright dauntless. Michael Mitnick (book) and Adam Gwon (music and lyrics) have undertaken this endeavor and the result is “Scotland, PA” based on the indie film by Billy Morrissette, and now playing at the Laura Pels Theatre. Scenes of murder by pushing someone’s face into a deep fryer or committing suicide by leaping off a building and landing on the peaks of the letter “M” of a fast food logo, will surely appeal to the fans of schlock horror films. As far as having appeal to musical theatre aficionados it could be a mixed bag.

This incarnation of the classic Shakespeare play is placed in the small town of Scotland, PA. The three witches from the original script are replaced by three foretelling stoners, one male and two females, who act as the Greek chorus throughout. The kingdom is a fast food hamburger joint aptly named “Duncan’s” with an atrocious owner of the same name. Mac (a fresh and vulnerable Ryan McCartan) and his wife Pat (an assertive, ambitious Taylor Iman Jones) murder the owner Duncan (a staunch, irritable Jeb Brown) and buy the restaurant from his gay son Malcom (a solid, sensitive Will Meyers). They build an incredible business but are scrutinized by detective McDuff (a determined, feisty Megan Lawrence) who is trying to solve the mysterious homicide. Pat, focusing her guilt on the burn she received on her hand during the murder (which has already healed) chops off her hand to relieve the anguish and subsequently bleeds to death. Mac finds her dead on the roof of the restaurant and leaps to his gruesome death, knowing the detective has solved the case. In the end McDuff buys the vacant fast food establishment and opens a vegetarian restaurant. That’s about it!

Music by Mr. Gwon is eclectic which works to some extent to provide interest, but the problem is that it never finds a groove that builds to a climax and actually feels sluggish. His lyrics are at times mundane not providing any movement of the plot. As a whole the musical is a bit lackadaisical and convoluted without a lot of structural sense. Characters appear in a cartoonish manor even during dramatic turns which sabotages any real emotional development. There are a few highlights in this production but perhaps they capture the spotlight because of their dismal surroundings. Will Meyers’ well sung and sensitive “Why I Love Football” is a breath of fresh air that lets the audience relish the charm of musical comedy. “Kick Ass Party” by the dolt Banko (a perfectly moronic Jay Armstrong Johnson) livens things up and invades his character with delight. Alysha Umphress as one of the stoners can do no wrong with her sultry vocals but is sorely missing a sturdy solo she can sink her teeth into.

The competent cast does what it can but cannot transcend the inferior material they have to work with or the haphazard direction by Lonnie Price who usually delivers an exceptional product. Another
drawback that hinders the success of this venture is the fact that it has been done before, done better and is competing with a show running concurrently across town. It is basically a “Little Shop of Horrors” meets “American Psycho” without the brilliant music and lyrics, and with much less blood and carnage. It is not the worst musical to be seen but is extremely far from being the best.


The cast of “Scotland, PA” includes Jeb Brown (Duncan), Jay Armstrong Johnson (Banko), Taylor Iman Jones (Pat), Lacretta (Mrs. Lenox), Megan Lawrence (McDuff), Ryan McCartan (Mac), Will Meyers (Malcolm), Wonu Ogunfowora (Stacey), Alysha Umphress (Jessie) and Kaleb Wells (Hector).

The creative team includes choreography by Josh Rhodes, set design by Anna Louizos, costume design by Tracy Christensen, lighting design by Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew, sound design by Jon Weston, orchestrations by Frank Galgano and Matt Castle.

“Scotland, PA” runs at at the Laura Pels Theatre in the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre (111 West 46th Street) through December 8, 2019. For further information and to purchase tickets, visit Running time is 2 hours and 15 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.

Photo: Taylor Iman Jones and Ryan McCartan in “Scotland, PA.” Credit: Nina Goodheart.
Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Friday, October 25, 2019