Waiting for Duff Man

Has Homer Simpson abandoned his post in Sector 7G for life on the stage? Has the crayon been permanently dislodged from Homer's brain, rendering him intellectually inspired, a man more artsy than fartsy?

So it seems. America's favorite nuclear family man is taking on Shakespeare in MacHomer: "The Simpsons" Do Macbeth, a touring stage show that hits the Scottsdale Center for the Arts this Friday and Saturday, February 21 and 22.

Iambic pentameter meets pop culture in this one-man adaptation. While sticking almost completely to Shakespeare's language, MacHomer creator Rick Miller performs the play as citizens of Springfield, channeling 50-some voices from The Simpsons. Judging by its reviews, MacHomer is even more entertaining than a film of a guy taking a football in the groin.

So if all the world's a stage, how exactly did the Simpsons become the players?

"It's the kind of thing that came naturally to my head," says Miller, a Toronto-based actor and writer. The setting was Montreal. 1994. A Shakespeare in the Park production of Macbeth. "I was playing Murderer Number Two and had about six lines, and we ran for three months, so I had a heck of a lot of time to sit backstage and create this." A gifted impersonator, Miller introduced his Shakespeare-Simpsons fusion at a cast party that summer. Thus, Mr. Plow was crowned king of Scotland, and MacHomer hit the tour circuit.

Insisting that he didn't set out to rewrite Macbeth, Miller estimates that his performance remains 85 percent pure Shakespeare. "Shakespeare didn't write d'oh' anywhere, and it finds its way into my script," he explains. "The plot is faithful, but I've Simpsonized it." In typical Homer fashion, MacHomer occasionally drops a line and digresses from the script. "But essentially, it's the story of Macbeth: Guy kills king, guy becomes king, guy kills best friend, guy kills another friend's family, the other guy takes his head off."

Since Miller has doubled the size of the play's cast, he provides the audience with some "who's who" help: "Every time a new character appears, they're flashed on a screen in drawings that I've done of them in medieval costumes."

Despite the show's humorous spirit, Miller takes his role seriously, emphasizing MacHomer's educational value. "I'm the first taste of Shakespeare that a lot of people get. When they realize that Shakespeare's potentially not boring, they open their minds to it." And though Shakespeare's play and Fox's TV show are separated by 400 years, Miller insists that yesteryear's drama and today's dysfunction are natural complements.

"The Simpsons work well in a tragedy because they are wonderful characters. They're struggling, they have ambitions, but they're pathetic. They're flawed. And what is Macbeth? The flawed hero."

So pairing Bart and the Bard isn't as improbable as it might seem. Even Comic Book Guy would agree: Best. Show. Ever.

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Jill Koch
Contact: Jill Koch