On the best of days high school can be a powder keg of ambition, manipulation, and weird kids who randomly talk to you about visions while feeding their rats in their coat pocket…ok maybe not so much of that last one. But in MOXIE Theatre’s PEERLESS, this teenage drama is elevated to Shakespearean levels, quite literally.
PEERLESS is an adaption of MACBETH by Jiehae Park with the main thrust of the corrupting poser of ambition now centered on the college admissions process.
Twins high school girls “M” (Dana Wing Lau) and “L” (Jyl Kaneshiro) a nod to the main characters of the Scottish play, are both driven to get into “the” college, which only has one spot open from someone from their school. This unnamed ideal college where their admittance will be made all worth it. These Asian-American sisters are savvy and strategic enough to break themselves up into different years, so that first one of them gets in and then the other. Their high school is in the Midwest, were their ethnicity helps them stand out, and they think they have every angle covered.
When the nerdy “D” (Justin Lang) gets the spot instead, this sends the sisters into a tailspin of reexamination of how this could have happened (they become convinced that it’s his disabled brother, and possible Native American heritage) and how they can erase him for the narrative.
MACBETH is a play with lots of spooky, supernatural twists and this play centers most of those on “Dirty Girl” (Jennifer Eve Thorn), who is all three witches combined into one as she tell the twins of her visions and prophesies. It’s her ramblings that convince the twins that something drastic must be done to fix this situation.
What makes this play really shine is the main pair, played by Lau and Kaneshiro. They make these eerily focused and diabolical twins work, especially with their poetic and overlapping dialogue and their firm belief that the rise of one is the rise of the other, no matter what it takes. These ladies take quite literally “Look like the innocent flower,But be the serpent under it,” and they use this to their advantage.
The direction by Delicia Turner Sonnenberg (and MOXIE Artistic Chief) keeps the play moving, and darkly funny and cohesive as the plots, twists, turns, and supernatural elements all interact.
This one act is a fast and furious distillation of MACBETH, with some overt references and many subtle ones. You don’t have to be an expert in the Bard’s play to know what is going on, but it can imbue some moments with a flashback to the source material, even if those moments are but a moment on stage.
Just, whatever you do, don’t say the name of the Scottish play in the theatre…
PEERLESS is playing through October 9th at MOXIE theatre. For showtimes and ticket information go to www.Moxietheatre.com