By Andrew Hamlin
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
The new play “Peerless,” written by Jiehae Park, advertises itself as an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s classic “Macbeth,” a tale of kings, queens, treachery, murder, and ultimately, ruin.
Still, don’t expect to see Shakespeare’s trio of witches cackling, “Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble,” around their cauldron. The play’s director, Sara Porkalob, isn’t planning on any conventional, well-trodden approach, even if Park’s distinct re-envisioning of the material would allow that.
“’Macbeth,’” explained Porkalob, “was written by perhaps the most famous dead white guy playwright. I can’t re-create what he did and I don’t want to. With re-envisioning, context and intention are key. This play was written by an Asian American woman who used ‘Macbeth’ as a jumping off point and then bent the narrative to her will, to make something brand new, unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”
Local actor Erin Bednarz, who plays a character called “Dirty Girl” in the production, explains that her character represents the rough equivalent of those famous witches. But the show is set in a high school, featuring some of the cliques, rivalries, and backstabbing associated with that atmosphere. Most of the characters have capital letters for their names.
“Corinne Magin and Maile Wong perform as twins M and L, with such timing and sinister grace,” elaborates Bednarz about her castmates. “Jonathan Keyes is an effortlessly cool and earnestly cliche BF, and it’s been such a pleasure getting to know him.”
Chris Quilici is an idyllic D — the problematic white boy, and the audience gets trapped into feeling for his character. “The particular energy of our ensemble is calm and collected, with a clear goal of wanting to watch everyone kill it on stage.”
Porkalob, who acts as well as directs, muses that being one of the first companies to do a new play has its advantages artistically.
“The most challenging thing about this is knowing that some people may be offended with the subject material, depending on the theater’s established audience demographic. This play deftly examines the intersection of race, gender, class, age, and how that factors into power, control, and ambition.”
Bednarz explains the tone of the new play as “encrypted satire.” The drama and the comedy often seem in-your-face, but Jihae tricks the audience, allowing the characters to speak truths so directly that the audience’s first instinct is disbelief.
But, Bednarz counseled, the deeper, darker messages will sink in, to those attending intently, seriously.
“A great listener will love this play,” she concluded.
“Peerless” plays from Jan. 18 through Feb. 11 at ArtsWest, 4711 California Avenue South West, Seattle. For prices, showtimes, and other information, visit artswest.org/2017-18-i-am-season.
Andrew can be reached at email@example.com.