Theater Review: Why Mash-up Comedy ‘MacHomer’ Has Lasted So Long

Shakespeare’s plays have survived for 400 years despite many obstacles such as plagues, Puritan censorship, Victorian era edits, 20th Century deconstruction fads, and hundreds upon hundreds of film versions of various verisimilitudes. Until now, that is, the ominous opening announcement tells us before the beginning of Rick Miller’s one-man mashup of Matt Groening’s The Simpsons and Shakespeare’s Macbeth called MacHomer.

What started as a 1994 cast party skit for a “Shakespeare in the Park” run of the Scottish play has evolved into an international phenomenon. Now after 17 years, and 130 cities Miller is bringing his multimedia show of many, many voices to a close. His one night in Dallas is his penultimate performance before finishing up in Canada.

It’s a brilliant conceit to have America’s longest-running sitcom embody one of the greatest tragedies in the English language, and as Miller avers, “The Bard was pop culture for his time.” So, why not have one very talented actor with a gift for impressions (over 50 voices from The Simpsons alone) have “one dysfunctional family doing another?”

Miller takes a script that contains about 85 percent Macbeth and folds in healthy bits of just about everything else including Star Wars, West Side Story, jokes about Presidents Bush and Obama (a little dated), local flavor (the Dallas Cowboys), South Park, The Grinch, lots of riffing on other Bard fare (Ummmm…Hamlet, and OthellD’oh), and even an über-topical aside about General Petraeus.

The show takes many liberties, and revels in them (“Is that a dagger, or a piece of pizza I see before me?”) the mixed-up material is strangely compatible, and the frenetic, poly-talented charm of Miller make for an incredibly entertaining, and, dare I say it, an incisive commentary on Shakespeare’s play.

Kudos to director Sean Lynch and Production/stage manager, and designer Beth Cates for helping Miller integrate so many elements into this cavalcade of characters. The set includes a large console TV, like on the cartoon’s opening, which functions as a camera where Miller can project himself, paper puppets, and images of the characters on the screen behind him.

Finally, it is Miller’s mad genius that propels this experience. His ability to mimic voices is uncanny. He really can do any all of those characters; however his standouts are Marge, Otto, Moe, and Troy McClure. And just prove that he is not a one-show/one-note wonder, he provides a hilarious encore of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” done with the world’s “25 most annoying voices” like Tom Waits, Bon Jovi, Bob Dylan, and Neil Diamond to name a few.

So, when Miller intones, “something stupid this way comes,” he’s right, but in the best possible way. Too bad it’s finally done.