SALT LAKE CITY — As I walked into The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s Production of Macbeth, I was handed a raffle ticket along with my program and greeted by the sound of an elderly pianist playing the overture from The Sound of Music. Above the stage hung a two-dimensional wooden cauldron bedecked with the word “Macbeth” in red neon lights. The very eager Mrs. Reece (played by Vicki Pugmire) stepped on stage and welcomed the audience to the Society’s entry in a statewide theater competition. She cheerfully made the kind of announcements one might expect at a women’s social function: reminding everyone to hold onto their raffle tickets, congratulating one of the cast members on a new baby, and commiserating with that same cast member who had tripped on some baby food but would nobly and be-crutchedly still be participating as MacDuff/Witch #2. All the while, a maintenance man, Henry (William Richardson), ran back and forth making last minute adjustments to the set and nailing things into place. This introduction set the mood for a quaint and delightfully bumbling spin on the Shakespeare classic.
The Dramatic Society’s amateur cast overcame one setback after another, always with enthusiasm. When the actress playing Lady Macbeth couldn’t make it at the last minute, the ladies of the Society persuaded Henry to step in and fill the part—which he did with initial trepidation but ultimately overflowing gusto. When the first act was delayed due to a set malfunction, Felicity (Alexa McPherson) treated the audience to her prize-winning high school cheerleading routine until the set was fixed. And when a fall forced Kate (Sarah Danielle Young) to swap her crutches for a wheelchair and neck brace, the show’s director (John Royal Belliston) stepped in to push her wheelchair during her scenes.
When the show was running smoothly, it was filled with the kind of creative flare that only a small town group of women could provide. Banquo’s ghost (Mary Sorensen) made one haunting appearance atop a Razer scooter; MacDuff (Sarah Danielle Young) spoke with an amazingly Scrooge McDuck-reminiscent Scottish accent; one of the assassins (Alexa McPherson) dressed and spoke like a pirate, and the other (Lara Mountford) was armed with a toy light saber.
While I spent the entire evening alternating between a charmed smile and full-on laughter, a few scenes stood out as highlights: First, at one point an extended lighting snafu left the stage dark and a spotlight on the theater critic, Mr. Peach (Jonathan McBride). After a brief commentary about what the audience had seen so far, Mr. Peach shrugged his shoulders in feigned embarrassment and then pulled a handkerchief from his bag and treated the audience to one magic trick after another until the stage lights came back on.
Second: dance routines (choreographers Marynell Hinton and Tobin Atkinson, musical director Jonathan McBride). The Weird Sisters (Alexa McPherson, Lara Mountford, Sarah Danielle Young) had a rousing choreographed rendition “That Old Black Magic” that was so pleasant it would make any show worth seeing. I won’t spoil the surprise of any of the other choreography for you, but I will say that I loved how Thelma (Rebecca Marcotte)—the show’s Macbeth who was far and away the Dramatic Society’s most serious thespian – infused each of her dance routines with just as much gravity as she did any other scene. On top of the Farndale women’s gaffes and creative touches, the crew adroitly used the set (designed by Ruth Ann Weisman), lighting (designed by Megan Crivello), sound, props, and costumes to add to the character and humor of the evening.
I have nothing but the wildest of applause for director Tobin Atkinson. Making a play-within-a-play adaptation of a classic is a difficult task that I’ve found disappointing more often than not. But Atkinson accomplished the impressive feat of taking one of the stage’s darkest tragedies and infusing every scene with absolutely charming comedy. Every part of Meat and Potato Theatre’s production was executed magnificently, and I would leap at the chance to see again.