New York City Theater
Laura Pels Theater
In “Scotland, PA,” Roundabout’s jaunty, festive but bifurcated new off-Broadway musical, signs inform us that there’s no gas at the gas station and the Points of Interest location is closed. Based on the 2002 cult film which was, in turn, based loosely on Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” the show strains to unite what starts as comic parody with what turns into grisly tragedy. Unlike, say, “Little Shop of Horrors,” it doesn’t maintain an engaging tone nor involve us with the characters.
Set in 1975, the plot begins with a trio of malevolent forces: the Witches in “Macbeth” here transformed into three Stoners (Alysha Umphress, Wonu Ogunfowora, Kaleb Wells), voices in Mac’s head who spur on his ambitions. Working in the fast-food restaurant named after owner Duncan (the sadistic Jeb Brown), Mac is full of ideas, like installing a drive-in window.
His improvements rejected, feeling underpaid and spurred on by wife and fellow worker Pat, they decide to rob the safe “We never had a dime / Isn’t that a crime?”). The escapade ends badly for a time, before it becomes fortuitous, then disastrous. The immediate result is the founding of McBet’s restaurant, with a big “M” as its trademark. (McDonald’s beware!)
Pursued by Peg McDuff, a vegetarian detective (Megan Lawrence), the McBets come to a timely end, having offed not only Duncan but Banko. The manner of the various demises is both gruesome and inventive, especially Duncan’s.
“Scotland PA” is no barn-burner yet it is disarmingly jokey (book by Michael Mitnick), with a peppy score (by Adam Gwon), fluent direction (by Lonny Price) and delicious cast. Sprinkled throughout are standout numbers: The amusing “Why I Love Football,” sung by a goofy Will Meyers as Malcolm; the loopy “Kick-Ass Party,” sung by the manic, scene-stealing Jay Armstrong Johnson as a bathrobe-clad Banko; and the breakout “Clairvoyant,” sung by Ryan McCartan as Mac and the appealing Taylor Iman Jones as Pat.
No harm done.
--David A. Rosenberg
Oct. 28, 2019