Shakespeare plots go wild in ‘Bug’ 

click to enlarge The Shakespeare Bug
  • COURTESY PHOTO
  • From left, Millie DeBenedet, Will Dao and Peter Townley appear in Killing My Lobster’s world premiere of “The Shakespeare Bug.”
In Ken Slattery’s new meta-theatrical comedy, “The Shakespeare Bug” — a Killing My Lobster world premiere — everyone around bespectacled computer nerd Hamlet (Peter Townley), son of Shakespearean actor Leonard (Kevin Spacey lookalike David Cramer), is coming down with an odd infection.

Those afflicted suddenly think all the world’s a stage, and they themselves are Shakespearean characters.

So, for example, Hamlet’s ambitious uncle Claude (as in Claudius; Cramer again), CEO of the startup where Hamlet works, aspires to be King of San Francisco, while Hamlet’s mother, Gretchen (Michaela Greeley), switches allegiances from good-hearted Leonard to crafty Claude.

Hamlet’s erstwhile girlfriend, Tiffany (Millie DeBenedet), who previously dumped him for his BFF, Larry (William Dao), now fancies herself rejected by Hamlet and traipses around singing bad pop love songs and flinging flowers about.

And dedicated stage manager Marybeth (Erin Carter) leaves her beloved theater job for a position in Claude’s startup (good pay and benefits!) and, dagger in hand, plots murder in order to rise in the ranks.

A witch (Rosie Hallett), it seems, is the perpetrator of all of the unholy mayhem, and an in-development witch app could make the bug go viral. Hamlet, the only healthy one, must stop that from happening and put his world to rights.

It’s a clever conceit, the story and bits of the text a witty mashup of “Hamlet” and “Macbeth” with snippets of a few other Bard plays thrown in.

And Slattery nicely satirizes both the earnest, artsy world of nonprofit theater and the soulless high-tech industry, with a befuddled, everyman Hamlet struggling, just like his namesake, to determine his path and take action.

Some of the scenes are hilarious: an episode on the J-Church Muni train in which three weird-sister passengers intone dire prophesies; the ghost of Hamlet’s father (Cramer again, at his funniest in this role) drifting around with a Starbucks coffee cup and declaiming ponderously; a series of fights, some involving swords, one involving dueling laptops; a visit from a mythical, self-important Supreme Stage Manager (Hallett again).

Director M. Graham Smith, who so wonderfully directed Slattery’s previous play “Truffaldino Says No” at Shotgun Players, is working here with a more uneven cast and has allowed some labored overacting and slow moments to slip in. And the play itself is a bit too long. But there’s lots to love in Slattery’s zany, imaginative modern universe.

REVIEW

The Shakespeare Bug

Presented by Killing My Lobster in association with PlayGround

Where: Stage Werx, 446 Valencia St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays; closes Sept. 29

Tickets: $20-$30

Contact: (415) 558-7721, www.killingmylobster.com

About The Author

Jean Schiffman

Jean Schiffman

Bio:
Jean Schiffman is a freelance arts writer specializing in theatre. Some of her short stories and personal essays have been published in newspapers and small literary magazines. She is an occasional book copy editor and also has a background in stage acting. Her book “The Working Actor’s Toolkit” was published... more
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