MACBETT, Stone Circle Theatre, at the Athenaeum Theatre Studio. Who would have guessed that grand master absurdist Eugene Ionesco could write a suspenseful whodunit? To be sure, he borrows heavily from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, but in Ionesco’s version the femme fatale is Mrs. Duncan, one of the witches wears a leather bikini, and the riddle is not the familiar “no man of woman born” puzzler but how Banco will sire a royal dynasty (as the witches predict) when his best buddy Macbett has already killed him.

Though still in need of a central metaphor to give it shape, this Stone Circle production avoids the common pitfalls of 25-year-old cutting-edge satire (the message that the world is ass backwards is scarcely news). Director Casey Hayes has wisely chosen to discourage his cast from the cartoonish excess that so often deep-sixes this genre, opting instead for a poker-faced sobriety that highlights Ionesco’s ridicule of government bureaucracy and Elizabethan dramatic conventions (a character “hides” by covering his own eyes–a silly gambit that actually succeeds).

Unlike other parodies fueled by the Bard’s Scottish play–like Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi–Macbett makes for an intriguing, amusing evening even for those who haven’t thought about the “Birnam Wood to Dunsinane” trick since English lit in high school.

–Mary Shen Barnidge