Moxie Theatre's 'Peerless' Riffs On 'Macbeth'
New play reimagines Shakespeare's tale in a modern high school
Moxie Theatre strives to showcase female playwrights and plays with dynamic women characters. Its current production Peerless offers a re-imagining of Shakespeare's Macbeth. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando began her interview with actresses Dana Wing Laow And Jilldiscussing the curse of the Scottish Play that caused them to cancel a performance. We were supposed to have preview tonight. There was some flooding in the theater but there is a myth, anytime there is a production of the Scottish play, you should not say the name and theater, that things have happened. Do not say it. Do not sea for any production. Explain what is the connection between your play, peerless and Shakespeare's play? The playwright, she calls it on the Scottish play, the themes are similar, track it through four inhibition, and wanting the kingdom to be the top. Winner winner chicken dinner. Peerless, the name, you can say because these girls are set in high school, peers, they are both there appears a peerless but it comes from a line in the Scottish play. The Scottish man. [ LAUGHTER ] That is the connection. Give us a sense of what the actual storyline in this play is These satellite girls you know who are in a town, just so they are -- they put themselves in the situation so they can at the upper hand as far as getting into the school. The college. That they want to get into. When other circumstances come in and interfere with their plan, they find a way to eliminate the circumstances. Because they have a plant -- That is what they are focused on. From against the world, essentially. It interweaves a true life crime story with twin sisters how does that play into the story? The silent ones. June and Jennifer. They are from Wales. Their connection that they have, it is similar to ours where we kind of speak -- a different language, it's that expedited speech that we have. Did you see? I saw it. It was his baby fat. We regret to inform you -- It has been taken. They did not speak, they were more like clicks, chirps, sounds, they developed, after a while they stopped talking to people and they would talk to themselves this way. They would only talk to themselves, they were social outcast so to speak. They went on an arson rampage, I think, and eventually got committed to institutionalize. And they would be in separate cells, and creepy things would happen, nurses would find them in the exact same position at the exact same time in different cells, they would be catatonic without each other and with each other -- it was like they were fighting against each other. It was like they cannot live without each other but they cannot live with each other, and they wrote and wrote and wrote a bunch of diaries and all the information which this journalist found. What is it like playing twins? What things did you work on to make that relationship work on stage? We were lucky, we were actually real life friends -- real-life flat -- real-life friends. We were together all day. Like six days a week. We knew each other before, but big -- but we got pretty close, we were asked to leave for the show, we are excited, his beloved each other. But then I played her mother in the last play. I think it was good that we knew each other. And we had a personal relationship. Me, the script -- it is so great, It is so hard. If you do not know the person, developed, having our relationship, it would be difficult. The future. My future. Our future. You still can have one. Every year, they take one. My stats are impeccable. 4.8. How hard is it to get that dialogue down with finishing each other's sentences and getting that piece right? It was difficult to learn it. We had to be there to learn about yourself, it's not a regular script. This is how I memorize thing, I would be texting her, I cannot get this. You know? At some point I family -- it was not until we were here on stage together and saying these lines and then realizing how far we have to go through rehearsal sometimes. It is a beast. It's a good beast. What you hope audience will connect with us in this play? Sceme if you are theater nerd it will be fun for you -- If you are a theater nerd it will be fun for you. You can see connections with the Scottish play. Is a comedy until it is not. There is dark stuff in it that has, you know, this morbid humor so it would be fun for people who perhaps have gone to a live theater and no Shakespeare. If it's your first, it's fast, exciting, it's exhilarating, is like, what is happening? Just to see what can happen on stage with Peter, that's what I love about theater. We can make anything happen in the show. Was important, the language, to hear the language, and what is happening with the thought processes is really cool. This would have been our second preview. The first preview, hearing the audience, there were people in there who knew Shakespeare. You could tell we had moments with Shakespeare, you could -- You would hear Google's. -- You would hear giggles. Thank you. Speaking to the lead actresses of peerless.9 at Moxie Theatre on El Cajon Blvd
"The Silent Twins" (1986)
"Scotland, PA" (2001)
Moxie Theatre strives to showcase female playwrights and plays with dynamic women characters. Its current production "Peerless" offers a reimagining of Shakespeare’s "Macbeth."
Staging Shakespeare for contemporary audiences is always a challenge. But when you’re dealing with "Macbeth," you also face the curse of the Scottish Play if anyone mentions the title inside the theater. Moxie artistic director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg recently experienced this firsthand.
"We are performing a version of the Scottish Play and I’m afraid somebody may have said it out loud without doing the ritual of spitting and turning around three times and we are now dealing with the consequences," Turner Sonnenberg explained from the lobby of her flooded theater on Sept. 15, the night of the planned second preview performance of "Peerless."
Actress Dana Wing Lau added, "We were supposed to have a preview tonight and it got canceled due to some flooding in the theater. We have saged the theater for protection, just in case. Any time there is a production of the Scottish Play you are not supposed to actually say the name in a theater. Bad things have happened."
But Moxie Theater lived up to its name and braved the flooding to run scenes from Jiehae Park’s "Peerless," which the playwright describes as a riff on Shakespeare’s "Macbeth" but set in a high school.
"I think the themes are very similar if you track it through for ambition," Wing Lau said.
"But in 'Peerless' instead of the throne, the throne is college admissions," Turner Sonnenberg added.
And instead of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, we have M (played by Dana Wing Lau) and L (played by Jyl Kaneshiro), twin sisters who will not be denied entry to the college of their choice.
The playwright also drew on real life twins Jennifer and June Gibbons, who were dubbed the silent twins because they only spoke to each other and spoke in a language of click and sounds they had created.
"They went on an arson rampage and eventually got committed, institutionalized, and they would be in separate cells and creepy things would happen where the nurses would find them in the exact same position at the exact same time but in different cells," Wing Lau said.
"It was just their interaction that they had together that is similar to ours where we kind of speak the same, different language where its that expedited speech we have," Jyl Kaneshiro said.
Turner Sonnenberg directs "Peerless." She said, "The twins whenever they speak to each other they finish each other’s thoughts, even though they speak in a language we understand and not in clicks or grunts or made up language their language is very different together than it is with the other characters."
The play benefits from the fact that actresses Wing Lau and Kaneshiro have worked together before and are friends off stage.
"I think it was good that we knew each other and had a relationship. For me the script has been so hard and I think if you didn’t know the person, just to develop having this relationship would have been really difficult," Wing Lau said.
Out of character, the actresses also seemed to finish each other’s sentences. Their intimacy works well in conveying the dynamics of the twin’s relationship.
But it is a relationship that is quite complex.
"In the world of the play it’s the twins together, and sometimes, one of the things we had to explore is when is it one supporting the other, when is it both of them against the world, and when is it them against each other," Turner Sonneberg added.
"Peerless" reimagines "Macbeth" in a bold new way and satisfies Moxie’s mission of highlighting women playwrights who dare present female characters that defy stereotypes.
"Peerless" runs through Oct. 9 at Moxie Theatre on 6663 El Cajon Blvd.
For more about Shakespeare's "Macbeth" and the curse of The Scottish Play, listen to Cinema Junkie Podcast 80.