Both Shakespeare aficionados and “Star Trek” fans will love “Klingon M’aQ’betH.”
Those squeamish at the sight of blood, maybe not so much.
Alex DeRoest, 30, and Nick Poling, 27, the local playwrights behind “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” and “The Adventures of Lewis & Clark,” have returned to Red Curtain’s Marysville stage with their “Star Trek”-inspired adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”
DeRoest and Poling, both big “Star Trek” fans, were inspired to write the play after hearing about a Klingon version of “Hamlet.” They decided to adapt “Macbeth” because they see a lot of similarities between the Klingons, a warrior race of humanoids on the science-fiction TV series, and the Bard’s Scottish play.
“Scottish honor is up the Klingons’ alley,” Poling said, “so we thought ‘Macbeth’ would be an even better fit.
“Macbeth is more bloody,” he added. “It’s probably Shakespeare’s bloodiest play.”
Don’t worry — you don’t need to speak Klingon to follow along. The play is written in Shakespearean English. “M’aQ’betH” follows the same story line as the original, but DeRoest and Poling swapped names, places and scenes to match Klingon lore.
Scotland is switched to Qo’noS, homeworld of the Klingons. England then becomes Vulcan, home to the Vulcans, another species of aliens in the “Star Trek” universe, who play a major factor in the plot in this version.
Three Feklhri witches — monstorous Klingonoid creatures — are determined to meet with a Klingon general named M’aQ’betH, played by Poling.
Meanwhile, Emperor Kahless (William Phillips) has united several feuding houses to expel their mutual enemy, an alien species call the Hur’q, from Qo’noS.
M’aQ’betH and Gen. Banquo (Joseph Goins) celebrate the victory, but it’s cut short when the witches prophesize M’aQ’betH will soon become emperor. The prophesy comes true, but only because his power-hungry wife, Lady M’aQ’betH (Jeryn Pasha) convinces him to commit murder. Desperate to cover his tracks, he becomes a tyrannical ruler and threatens to undo all that Kahless built.
The play looks and feels like an episode of “Star Trek.” The actors all speak with the same cadence and authority as the Klingons do in the TV show.
Not to mention they just look freakin’ cool. Their makeup is spot-on.
“We were very lucky to get makeup volunteers who actually did Klingon cosplays at conventions,” Poling said.
Poling is fantastic as M’aQ’betH. You would never guess that it’s his first dramatic role, as he does mostly comedies. It’s saddening to watch the Klingon general fall into despair while racked with guilt over his betrayal.
Equally effective is Pasha’s Lady M’aQ’betH. She’s cunning and manipulative, but ultimately just as unstable.
General Martoff, played by Josh Read, was my favorite. Martoff is the Klingon version of Macduff in “Macbeth.”
While the rest of the actors are imposing figures with large beards, Read is tall and lanky. But he holds his ground, his deep and powerful voice never cracking under pressure.
The fight scenes, choreographed by Poling, are also terrific. Using curved blades made of real metal, each sword clash between warriors feels like they carry real weight. They’re intense to the point that I was genuinely worried someone was going to get hurt. I loved every minute.
“We definitely practiced a lot,” Poling said. “We’re moving around pretty fast, but we want to make sure everyone is safe.”
Fair warning: A couple of swordfights involve a ridiculous amount of alien bloodshed. But it’s meant to draw laughs, not gasps.
DeRoest and Poling also put a fun twist on the climatic battle scene in the final act. Instead of armies fighting on the ground, it’s ship-to-ship combat in space.
The two playwrights — as well as the rest of the crew — strike a perfect balance between “Star Trek” fantasy and the “Macbeth” tragedy. If you’re a fan of either, this is a must-see.
Evan Thompson: 360-544-2999, email@example.com.
If you go
What: “Klingon M’aQ’betH”
Where: Red Curtain Arts Center, 9315 State Ave., Suite J
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 12
Tickets: $18 general, $15 seniors, students and military personnel
More: 360-322-7402 or www.redcurtainfoundation.org