Monday, May 2, 2022

TV Quote of the Day (‘Slings and Arrows,’ on the Curse of Shakespeare’s ‘Scottish Play’)

Ghost of Oliver Welles [played by Stephen Ouimette]: “The Scotsman is evil. Both he and Banquo encounter the witches, both their futures are foretold, but only The Scotsman goes on a killing spree.”

Geoffrey Tennant [played by Paul Gross]: “‘The Scotsman’? Oh, do you mean- Mac-beeeth?’

Oliver: “Geoffrey, please!”

Geoffrey: “What?”

Oliver: “Don’t say his name aloud!”

Geoffrey: “Who? Mac-beeeeth?”

Oliver: “You’re just asking for trouble.”

Geoffrey: “Well, we are rehearsing a play called Mac-beeeth. It’s gonna be a little awkward if I can’t say the title character’s name.”

Oliver: “This isn't actually rehearsal. This is a meeting after rehearsal.”

Geoffrey: “Oh, I'm so sorry, Oliver, I forgot—you believe in ‘the curse.’”

Oliver: “And you don't?”

Geoffrey: “No. The only thing cursed about this play is that it is extraordinarily difficult to stage effectively.”

Oliver: “So you think you're above this kind of superstitious prattle?”

Geoffrey: “As a matter of fact I do, yes.”

Oliver: “You're talking to a ghost! Wake up and smell the coffin!”— Slings and Arrows, Season 2, Episode 3, “Rarer Monsters,” original air date July 11, 2005, teleplay by Susan Coyne, Bob Martin and Mark McKinney, directed by Peter Wellington

This weekend, I couldn’t help thinking of this quote from Slings and Arrows, the great TV dramedy of the early oughts about a troupe of Canadian actors in a setting with a more-than-passing resemblance to the Stratford Festival.

It seems like quite the year for Macbeth, between the Denzel Washington-Frances McDormand film that came out this past winter and the stage adaptation starring Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga that premiered on Broadway the other night.

Besides receiving a decidedly mixed critical reception, the Bard’s tragedy is keeping up with its tradition as jinxed, suffering COVID-related nightmares (with not only Craig, its surest draw, forcing cancellation of some preview performances after he tested positive, but enough other absences that director Sam Gold was forced to play a role himself).

No matter. “The Scottish play” will endure despite the morass of challenges awaiting anyone who dares to stage it, because it says so much about the potential for evil that lies within all of us—but, most consequentially, within those close to the center of power.

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