Gavilan play ‘Macbett’ looks at absurdities of war

Director Jim Cave shows proper technique for a swordfight during

GILROY
– The timing couldn’t be more perfect for Gavilan College
Theater’s presentation of Eugene Ionesco’s

Macbett.

The Theatre of the Absurd parody of William Shakespeare’s

MacBeth

will open at 7:30 p.m. today, and it’s opening couldn’t come at
better time to get its message across.
GILROY – The timing couldn’t be more perfect for Gavilan College Theater’s presentation of Eugene Ionesco’s “Macbett.”

The Theatre of the Absurd parody of William Shakespeare’s “MacBeth” will open at 7:30 p.m. today, and it’s opening couldn’t come at better time to get its message across.

The themes in Shakespeare’s play about war, ambition and murder are taken to a whole new level in Ionesco’s over-the-top version of the play, and it comes at a time when troops are fighting a war in Iraq that not only has Americans alert, but also has some questioning whether the United States should be involved in the affairs of the country.

“It’s extremely different than anything we’ve done before. I think it is very important,” said Cherise Mantia, a theater arts student who plays Lady Duncan, the first witch and Lady Macbett in the play. “College is a place where people learn and experience the world in a fairly safe environment. While some people may not like that we’re doing this because it is about war, it’s important to do something like this.”

While Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” was a tragedy where Macbeth has good traits but falls because of he can’t control his ambition, “Macbett” is a comedy where the lead character is inherently bad, and the focus of the play is on the absurdity of war, often taken to comedic proportions.

“War is bad,” said Matt Coughlan, who will play Macbett in the play. “If you elect your leader through bloodshed that they will only bring bloodshed. That’s the point.”

Coughlan said that the play, which is for ages 18 and over because of war themes, language and a strip tease scene, may cause a bit of a stir for those who aren’t prepared.

“It’s something that Gilroy probably isn’t expecting,” he said. “The playwright is making a political statement. You either hate it or you like it – there really isn’t a middle ground with this play.

“There’s cursing, a strip tease, war elements. Just because its adult-like doesn’t mean it doesn’t have merit.”

To pull off a show that comes from the Theatre of the Absurd, a style of theater that began in the 1920s and was strongly influenced by the trauma of people’s experiences during World War II, the actors have to be completely over-the-top.

“The actors need to get to the bigger-than-life, cartoon-like effect,” Director Jim Cave said. “Once they hit an audience, the energy needs to be way up.”

Cave said that while the play has added effect because of the ongoing war, it wasn’t his initial intention when he was asked to direct the Gavilan Spring Play last year.

“I wanted to choose something I was familiar with, and Ionesco was a favorite of mine,” he said. “It’s a timely piece; I just hope that they enjoy it and get into the spirit of it.”

Cave, who has been involved in theater in the Bay Area for 25 years as an actor and director, said that people don’t have to come away from the show applying it to real life.

“I’m not to concerned about them going away reflective. If they see similarities, that’s great,” he said.

Coughlan said that he definitely sees marked similarities between the play and the conflict in Iraq.

“Some of the language of Macbett is the same as I hear in the media today,” he said. “It’s very timely. Our president decided not to get the support of the U.N. and decided to oust a dictator. … He said it was to save the people of Iraq, but we will probably never really know.”

Cave said that it there is no real need to have read or seen “Macbeth” to follow the play, and the dialogue is not like Shakespeare’s.

“It’s like the Simpsons do Shakespeare,” Cave said. “(Ionesco) doesn’t follow the Shakespearean story, he has his own twist. In fact, they don’t even have to take this as Shakespeare. Take it for what it is.”

Coughlan agreed.

“Although Shakespeare is neat, it is not antiquated,” he said. “You don’t have to read MacBeth to understand (‘Macbett’), but it helps.”

The eight-member cast and seven-member production staff have been working for a couple of months Monday through Thursday to prepare for the five-show run of “Macbett.” The Gavilan Theater has be setup for a cozy 100-seat audience who will be right in front of the stage.

“It makes it very intimate and vaudevillian and burlesque-like,” Cave said.

“Macbett” will play at 7:30 p.m. today, Saturday, April 10, 11 and 12 at the Gavilan College Theater. Tickets for the show are $10 for general admission, $8 for seniors and $5 for students with identification. April 10 is pay what you can night. An outdoor pre-show performance by Indigenous Chaos will begin at 7 p.m. For tickets call 848-4860.

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