The unfortunate dichotomy bestowed upon women in Western society is the virgin or the whore. Megan Gogerty, however, puts forth the idea that women don’t have to be either, but can instead be a witch.
In this solo performance by Gogerty and her Cornfed Productions from Iowa City in Lady Macbeth and Her Pal, Megan the comedian and playwright uses Shakespeare to explore modern-day concerns. When she’s told she can’t play Lady Macbeth, the murderous manipulator from Shakespeare’s great tragedy, she sets out to prove everyone wrong.
The show itself uses this framework to explore what it’s like to be a female comedian in the 21st century. The rampant sexism in the industry remains a problem. Gogerty wrote this script last year, thinking Hillary Clinton would be the next president. In the wake of the election, she believes her play is more important than ever.
Gogerty, married with two children, finds herself turning 40 and struggling with the expectations of being a woman, being a woman over 40 and being a woman in the extremely male-centric standup comedy industry. She has always struggled with the pressure on her gender; at age 25 decided to try being a comedian. It didn’t really click until about a decade later, and even today she struggles with anxiety issues. This always gets back to being objectified. But turning 40 has allowed a degree of freedom. Gogerty believes at first that men will stop thinking of her as a sexual being. But even that continues to be an obstacle.
When she considers what it means to be Lady Macbeth, an evil seductress, she realizes that even the most notable female character in Shakespearean lore ends up being shut out by her husband and then kills herself. But in Shakespeare’s play there’s another option: the three witches. They’re ugly and wicked, but most importantly they’re not alone. There’s strength in their coven, and the play doesn’t judge them for it as they are unscathed by the end.
The show itself is relatively simplistic in its presentation. There’s Gogerty herself, who is very funny and whose body and facial expressions seem to be made out of rubber as she bounces off the walls. There’s a simple wooden box containing a few props, most notably a red hoodie. That hoodie is very important as it changes shape and meaning.
Although Gogerty is always entertaining and a masterful storyteller, the central metaphor does get a bit muddied. Why does she want to play Lady Macbeth if she’s a comedian but not an actress? Perhaps the script needs more context on actually trying out for a specific show. Or maybe I’m just being nitpicky. The central thesis, that Lady Macbeth just needed to laugh and comedy is a form of magic is intriguing, but even better is the idea that women are stronger with friends.