April 5, 2001
Dr. John Menkes' "Lady Macbeth Gets a Divorce" at the Beverly Hills Playhouse is a witty and diverting drawing-room comedy that elicits something most sitcoms don't: real laughs.
The story is as familiar as Shakespeare: In a Vermont village, Fiona has had it with her lost and lazy failure of an antique dealer husband, Freddie. Freddie, played by Robert Sherer, is Dilbert on downers. "After I have a good night's sleep," he tells his wife, "I feel like I've accomplished something."
Urged on by a household ghost, Fiona (Suzan Crowley) plots to kill visiting old, rich Uncle Duncan (Brendon Thomas Dillon) before he marries aspiring starlet Dilly (Jerri Manthey) and sends his money her way. The original Macbeth is a spur to Menkes' imagination, but wisely he never lets it get in the way of a good laugh. There's plenty of those to be had here, at the expense of health food fanatics, day dreamers, schemers, wannabe actresses, lusting old men, even porn movie producers. The action moves at a good clip, and Menkes throws in enough surprises to keep the audience blushing.
Directed by Manu Tupou, the play suffers slightly from a couple of the actors' determination to keep their voices down. But Crowley's Fiona has a rich booming voice that commands everyone's attention. It is easy to imagine her playing the real Lady M.
Menkes has written a delightful show, an evening's easy pleasure. What makes his accomplishment even more appealing is that he only moonlights as a playwright. By day, Menkes is one of the world's pre-eminent pediatric neurologists. His "Textbook of Child Neurology" is now in its sixth edition, and he has served as director of pediatric neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and in a similar capacity at Johns Hopkins, UCLA and the Veterans Administration.
Born in Vienna, Menkes came to the United States as a refugee from Hitler's Europe. His other writing includes a medical thriller, "The Angry Puppet Syndrome" (Demos Press) and the award-winning play "The Last Inquisitor." Those are serious works on weighty subjects. "Lady Macbeth Gets a Divorce" is just seriously funny. Who knew the good doctor had it in him? Thankfully, he does.
"Lady Macbeth Gets a Divorce" plays at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., through May 27. For ticket information, call (323) 655-8587.