When I accepted the program for We Happy Few Productions’ experimental approach to Hamlet, I have to admit I felt a little apprehensive. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the brilliant production. Through the use of simple set, interesting staging, and Director Hannah Todd’s fascinating vision, this take on my favorite Shakespearean tragedy was one of the stronger productions I have seen in a long time.
The performance followed the basic storyline of Hamlet, but with a twist. The production still featured the troubled youth Hamlet (Chris Genebach), and his quest to avenge his father by murdering his uncle, King Claudius (James Whalen), who married Hamlet’s mother Gertrude (Sandy Bainum). However, Todd’s approach to the play revolved around the question of Hamlet’s sanity, and how many of the play’s events may have happened inside his head. Todd pushed this idea through the intriguing staging choice of always making Hamlet present on stage, either as a participant, or simply as an observer.
By casting each actor in multiple roles, Todd increased the chaos of the play. I felt the most interesting casting choice was joining the roles of Hamlet and his father, or the ghost, through the use of a mirror. Whenever Hamlet looked at his reflection, he became the ghost, which left the audience to question the ghost’s existence. This choice gave me a new perspective on the play and I found it to be inspiring.
Abraham Todd’s simple set consisted of a black box in the middle of the room. The decision to place the audiences in a semi-circle around the stage successfully helped increase the tight feel of the Black Box Theater, and bring the audience into the craziness.
If you are looking for a night of intriguing ideas and unexpected surprises, go see Hamlet! This is a new approach to Shakespeare you will not want to miss.
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