By Brian Scott Lipton
Do you ever eat fast food? How you react to Big Macs and McNuggets is likely to be similar to how well you may digest Scotland, PA, the rather silly new musical (based on the 2001 cult film of the same name), now at the Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre, which combines a campy re-telling of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” with an almost pathological obsession with the Golden Arches. For many, the show will go down as easily as a chocolate shake; others will find it tasty enough but ultimately cheesy; and some folks (especially audiences who regularly dine on far more sophisticated fare) won’t be able to fully swallow it.
The show’s concept is clever enough. It’s 1975 and none-too-bright Mac (the strong-voiced, appealing Ryan McCartan), a laid-back 30-year-old, is content enough to be a low-level employee at a backwoods burger joint owned by the penny-pinching, idea-dismissing Duncan (Jeb Brown, great as usual). That is until the “imaginary voices” of three stoners (the fabulous Alysha Umphress, Kaleb Wells and Wonu Ognuforowra) and the real voice of his financially dissatisfied wife Pat (the lovely Taylor Iman Jones) urge him to do whatever’s necessary to better his life, starting with a robbery that ends with Duncan’s semi-accidental murder.
It’s fine that Mac’s dream is to open his own fast-food place (complete with what is supposed to be America’s first drive-through window), but too much of Michael Mitnick’s script is focused on the creation and execution of McBeth’s (read McDonald’s), even if it’s brilliantly brought to life by the great Anna Louizos, rather than character development for Mac and Pat.
Perhaps Mitnick may have expected the show’s composer-lyricist Adam Gwon (Ordinary Days) to do the heavy lifting in that department; however, Gwon proves far better at writing musical monologues for the supporting cast than he does in fleshing out our main couple. Indeed, his tunes for the central pair do little more than rehash the same ideas about wanting a nicer material life, and only one, the R&B-flavored “Clairvoyant,” is particularly memorable.
Conversely, “Kick-Ass Party” tells us everything we need to know about the sad life of the couple’s sweet but dim-witted co-worker/best pal Banko (a hilarious Jay Armstrong Johnson); “Peg McDuff Is on the Case” is a great summation of what drives the feisty female detective (perfectly played by comic spitfire Megan Lawrence) who tries to solve the murder; and the show’s best song “Why I Love Football,” sung by Duncan’s troubled teenaged son (Will Meyers in a very impressive New York theater debut), is likely to have a long life in cabaret.
Veteran director Lonny Price, best known for his work with Stephen Sondheim, is a slightly odd fit for this material, and one wonders at times if that accounts for some of the show’s occasional sloppiness. In addition, the talented Tracy Christensen’s costumes are a bit all over the place chronologically (especially for the stoners, who seem to have escaped from a road company of Hair) and Josh Rhodes’ choreography is surprisingly fundamental without ever being very fun.
Above all, someone along the way should have cut the show down to one act. At two hours and fifteen minutes, it’s stretched thinner than a McDonald’s French fry!
Photos: Nina Goodheart
Scotland, PA continues at The Laura Pels Theatre (111 West 46th Street) through December 8. For tickets and information, call 212-719-1300 or visit roundabouttheatre.org.