MacBird


MacBird

"MacBird!" was a notorious 1966 counterculture drama by Barbara Garson which satirically depicted President Lyndon Johnson as Macbeth and his wife, Lady Bird Johnson, as Lady Macbeth.

The production became a big hit downstairs at the Village Gate on New York's Bleecker Street in the 1967 season.

Coming as it did a mere three years after the Kennedy assassination, and a somewhat lesser time before the end of Johnson's presidency, it caused a great deal of controversy. Starting out as a short satire by a recent graduate of the Berkeley anti-Vietnam war movement, it was developed, with a little help from Shakespeare, into a rousing attack upon the then-current administration.

The play, performed in full costume, flavored with rich Texas and Boston accents, and an attempt at Shakespearean iambic pentameter, begins with the 1960 presidential convention, where, with the help of his wife, Macbird hopes to be elected King, but loses to his adversary John Ken O'Dunc. By some plot twist, it is revealed that MacBird will become Viceroy, much to the dismay of the Ken O'Dunc clan. Then MacBird comes upon three witches, who talk to him in riddles, and who, in his imagination, reveal to him that he will in good time become King. MacBird decides to hasten this prospect, and invites the Ken O'Dunc family to his ranch after the coronation. As the day of the visit approaches, his wife, who has been complaining that she always has to do the "dirty work," sees a chance for her husband to gain the throne, and agrees to "call the shots" during the visit.

A procession through the streets is planned, headed by O'Dunc, his brothers Bobby and Ted, and followed up by the Egg of Head and the Earl of Warren. John is assassinated, and is about to be succeeded by his brother Robert, which causes all sorts of complications.

The play went on to a long engagement in Los Angeles, and became especially noteworthy because of the promising future careers of its original cast. "MacBird!" starred Stacy Keach as MacBird himself, alongside Rue McClanahan as Lady MacBird. John was played by Paul Hecht, Robert by William Devane, and John Pleshette played Ted. John Clark, who had originated the role of the Earl of Warren, left the cast early to marry Lynn Redgrave, and Cleavon Little's first professional job was appearing in the play. The stage manager, Joel Zwick, eventually became an acclaimed movie and television director.


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