I spent an interesting 90 minutes the other evening watching an amusing independent film called Never Say Macbeth. The comedy is described by its producers as a cross between Waiting for Guffman and Beetlejuice — that is, it’s about goofy theater and even goofier supernatural phenomena. If you’ve watched the inspired Canadian miniseries Slings and Arrows, about the backstage antics of a classic theater company, you might recognize a kindred spirit there, too. The romantic comedy is inspired by the theater superstition that uttering the name of Shakespeare’s “Scottish play” (that’s an acceptable reference) brings all kinds of dire results.
Macbeth is considered unlucky because it’s full of witchcraft. If an actor mentions the show’s title in a theater, there is a ritual about spinning around three times, spitting over your shoulder and uttering a line from Hamlet (“Angels and ministers of grace, defend us”) to prevent bad things from happening. Those who have ignored the curse, so it goes, have regretted it — if they’ve lived long enough. There’s a litany of performers dating back to the play’s original production in 1606 who have suffered illness, injury and even death.