Monday, December 05, 2022

The Scottish Play

Is Shakespeare's Macbeth cursed? Ask Kelsey Grammer. According to legend, a coven of witches enraged by Shakespeare including their genuine rituals in his text placed a curse on the play that endures to this day. Sydney can ask the Bard himself, when he appears to her while she is rehearsing a production of you-know-what in screenwriter-director Keith Boynton’s The Scottish Play, which releases tomorrow on VOD.

You could maybe compare Sydney to Laura Linney. She is no longer a starlet, but she has a big name and a reputation for classy work, so it is a coup for Adam, an up-and-coming theater director, when she agrees to star as Lady Macbeth in his production of “The Scottish Play,” opening a Massachusetts Shakespeare festival. She wanted to get away from the movie business for a while, but they also just seem like they are on the same wave-length.

On the first day of production, Adam gives a nice curse-schmurse speech, after which weird things start to happen. The weirdest has to be William Shakespeare visiting Sydney in ghostly form. He rather empathizes with Adam’s struggles staging
Macbeth, so he promises his help to Sydney. However, the “help” he offers up will be rather difficult to explain.

Honestly, I am totally shocked how good
The Scottish Play is, given how little fanfare has surrounded it. Basically, the entire industry and the media covering it has been sleeping on this film. Boynton has a nice ear for the iambic pentameter Shakespeare speaks in. Granted, I’m not a Shakespearean scholar, but I reviewed Macbeth twice on-stage and four times on film. At least for non-professional ears it sounds legit. Yes, people did not speak that way during everyday Elizabethan times, but now that he is dead, Shakespeare can indulge himself—or so he explains.

Regardless, of the language, Tina Benko has wonderfully ambiguous chemistry with both Peter Mark Kendall as Adam and Will Brill as Shakespeare. There is a lot of sly humor in her scenes with the two that lands gently—but definitely lands just the same. In a world where film critics did not simply follow the herd, Benko would be getting awards attention for this film. Plus, there is a bit of broader (but not shticky) humor from Geraint Wyn Davies as her blowhard co-star and Ali Ahn helps balance them all with some tart notes as the more sardonic stage manager, Lauren.

Boynton maintains a somewhat leisurely pace, but in a good way. His characters and dialogue are just enjoyable to spend time with.
The Scottish Play is even better than the unjustly under-appreciated Ghost Light, a previous comedically supernatural take on staging Macbeth. This is a real sleeper that delivers. Very highly recommended, The Scottish Play releases tomorrow (12/6) on VOD.