If you’re trying to wrap your head around the implications of a play that heralds itself as “Macbeth meets Mean Girls”—don’t worry, you’re not alone. We’ve been making some fantastic cognitive leaps, too (read: Duncan awakens from slumber, sees Macbeth, dagger raised, says, “Hell no, I did not leave the South Side for this!”). Of course, it’s probably more prudent to go directly to the source.
Jiehae Park’s peerless debuts April 27th at Rabb Hall in the Boston Public Library, and is the first ever live-theater production to run in that space. The play follows twins L and M, two high-school seniors dead-set on attending an Ivy League School. Of course, spots within their graduating class are limited. So when a rival student emerges with a personal tragedy that makes their admissions officer cry, the twins find their perfect SAT scores, hair, and minority status challenged.
Just how much blood will the twins shed to earn their spot at the table? We sat down with Park to sort through the carnage.
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What is your personal relationship with Macbeth, and how much of that play manifests itself in peerless?
Peerless feels like a riff on its themes, with some fun references planted for those who know, but it's definitely it's own creature. I certainly owe a debt to the way the verse and rhythms function in the Macbeth/Lady Macbeth scenes. The other big inspiration for the play were June and Jennifer Gibbons, who are utterly fascinating.
What was your inspiration for L and M? Why twins?
In retrospect, and thinking about the Gibbons twins, I think what drew me to the idea was how intensely they both loved and hated each other—attachment and resentment. There are a lot of identity politics in the play, and the need to carve out an individual identity feels so primal. So the stakes of that, the life-and-death stakes, felt right.
How much did your own college process inform the play’s concept?
I went to a pretty intense high school, where we all kind of knew who would be the three kids who were going to Harvard. Because of that, I actually felt pretty spared from the pressure of needing to be “the best.” But I witnessed some of my friends devastated when they didn’t get into “the good Ivies.” That probably did inform the play.
Is there anything specific you hope viewers come away with?
The play is a satire, and people say and do some truly terrible things in it. There’s always the danger with satire that folks take it literally. I hope people are able to recognize that this is an American story. What kinds of values are we instilling in our young people? What's our complicity as a society in the structures that shape these values?
If you had to choose between one: is this a comedy, or a tragedy?
I can't. A theme in the play for me is the danger of thinking we have to choose between seemingly mutually exclusive sides of a dichotomy. It’s equally important to me that the play is funny and emotionally truthful—it doesn't work without both elements.
April 27-May 27, Rabb Hall, 700 Boylston St. Tickets available at companyone.org.