The folks in 500 Clown used to get a lot of mileage out of their willingness to do scary, daring things onstage–like defiling a play by the Bard. They still do. But in the four years since Molly Brennan, Adrian Danzig, and Paul Kalina started messing with Macbeth their flip, rebellious, silly parody has taken on a serious, often Beckettian tinge. They still get laughs with outrageous physical stunts, many staged on a precarious-looking scaffold, but their show now contains some moments of sublime ambivalence, when the comedy is balanced on a knife’s edge and the laughter is a little uneasy. One such moment comes when Brennan, in a Lady Macbeth mood, urges Kalina to shoot Danzig with a prop gun. Kalina fires, and Danzig laughingly takes a hit but keeps jumping around. Suddenly Kalina’s expression turns cold and murderous, and he fires the gun again and again into Danzig’s twitching, prone body, a moment that undercuts the fundamental premise of slapstick–that no one really seems to get hurt–even as it echoes the murder of Duncan. The brief uncomfortable silence that follows is a powerful evocation of the violence and chaos at the heart of Shakespeare’s troubling play. The three bounce back, clowning away like there’s no tomorrow, but those gunshots reverberate through the rest of the show. In this new version of 500 Clown Macbeth, reworked for the decidedly upscale Lookingglass space, life is a tale told by a trio of idiots, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing. Lookingglass Theatre Company, Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan, 312-337-0665. Through August 29: Wednesdays-Thursdays, 8 PM; Fridays, 1 and 8 PM; Saturdays, 7 and 9:30 PM; Sundays, 3 PM. $22-$28.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Brosilow.