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to dec. 3

500 Clown frequently riffs on literary themes in its exquisitely choreographed and expertly paced stage shows, though the relationship between source and final product is always tentative. 500 Clown Macbeth skimps on the nagging textual details and all but a few of Shakespeare’s choice quotes, reducing the classic tragedy to its absolute essence: a three-way power struggle for the crown. This is Macbeth reinterpreted as an extended Buster Keaton/Harold Lloyd slapstick sequence, complete with intriguing set pieces, middlebrow tomfoolery, and copious amounts of mock-violence. The three members of this Chicago troupe—Paul Kalina, Molly Brennan, and Adrian Danzig—reportedly train year-round to stay in peak condition for their intensely physical routines; half of the show features the trio swinging and scampering on a scaffolding set that looks like it’s about to collapse at any given moment. Poor Danzig (who takes on the role of every character but Macbeth and Lady Macbeth) sustains much of the abuse: The show’s centerpiece gag involves a belt made out of firecrackers that explode directly above his crotch. As the show moves further away from its foundation, the three clowns’ attempts to stage a successful production of Macbeth (the play-within-a-play) get exponentially more bizarre, reaching a crest with Brennan’s grotesque interpretation of Lady Macbeth’s “out, out damn spot” monologue. That part of the show may be better left to the mind’s eye, but the rest of the iconoclastic rule-breaking shtick in 500 Clown Macbeth offers the most inventive take on the Bard this side of Julie Taymor. 500 Clown Macbeth runs at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30, through Saturday, Dec. 2; 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, and Sunday, Dec. 3; and 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3, at the University of Maryland’s Smith Performing Arts Center, Kogod Theatre, University Blvd. & Adelphi Road, College Park. $30. (301) 405-2787. (Nick Green)