Review: ‘A Two Woman Hamlet’ by Avant Bard

In the dead of winter, what a joy it is to be able to recapture the midsummer madness that rules this town during the Capital Fringe Festival. The folks at WSC Avant Bard, when they’re not cooking up dynamite full-length productions, have an ongoing “Scripts in Play” festival, which gives artists an opportunity to radically revisit familiar texts and demonstrate their timeliness, as well as their timelessness.

Nicola Collett (left) and Hannah Sweet in Avant Bard's 'A Two Woman Hamlet.' Photo by Mara Sherman.
Nicola Collett (left) and Hannah Sweet in Avant Bard’s ‘A Two Woman Hamlet.’ Photo by Mara Sherman.

Curator Quill Nebeker has scored a hit by reviving one of the Fringe’s big shows, A Two Woman Hamlet. Featuring Nicola Collett and Hannah Sweet in a wide variety of roles, you have until this Sunday, February 24, to catch one of the most refreshing re-sets of the Bard on the planet.

To make a long story short: two talented young actors, an inventive director, and an impossibly condensed rendition of the world’s most famous tragedy? Bring it on!

Why see this Hamlet? The original play, in its full form, is an oppressive 4+ hours – and that’s assuming the actors don’t pause for deadening, dramatic effect. But when you take the same material, and cut out the BS, you have about 85 minutes’ worth of non-stop mayhem, with ties and shawls and badges and what-not flying in and out of pockets, off of PVC-pipe coatracks and chairs. And there’s still time to ponder the pathos of the climactic scene, too.

Collett takes on Hamlet with relish and authority, while Sweet plays the mother-stepdad team of Gertrude and Claudius—often hilariously so. Both actresses find themselves playing two characters –often adversarial characters—at once, so that the fun here is on multiple levels. You have the old story you know by heart, you have glimpses of your favorite characters and some of your favorite lines, but you also get to see Collett and Sweet find humor in their many, deft quick changes, while also mining the old material for new insights and humor in the bargain.

Mara Sherman has guided these enthusiastic performers and shaped a truly entertaining evening of theatre, one that by rights should be a calling card for everyone in this production. You can’t miss with this one, folks!

Running Time: 85 minutes, with no intermission.

A Two-Woman Hamlet, presented by Avant Bard as part of its “Scripts in Play” festival, runs February 22-24, 2019, at Gunston Theatre Two, 2700 South Lang Street, Arlington, VA. For tickets, call 703-418-4808 or go online.