Last Night

Last Night: Hamlet

By Bryce McKay November 12, 2010

Last night, I served as usher at a performance of "Hamlet" at the Center House Theatre and saw the show. I did it with a friend for a lark, and because theater is expensive, and because I like "Hamlet," and because seeing it for free is a good thing

Usually.

I have three caveats before I start bitching: Darragh Kennan kicked ass as Hamlet, which probably saved the production. David Pichette's Polonius was snarky and crafty and funny, and Hamlet's incestuous, conniving uncle Claudius was a lovable villain.

All that aside, I think the show was a masturbatory performance piece with little regard for the audience.

As Laertes, Shawn Law slurred his words together so quickly that I lost them, throwing away entire lines. Brenda Joyner's Ophelia was passable. Mary Ewald's Gertrude never connected with her son as his madness deepened, instead devolving into a confused, vapid and superficial bitch—a cheap artistic decision that skipped entirely over the real relationship between mother and son. The nameless multitude was forgettable (but how can you blame "Soldier #1" for being forgettable?).

And honestly, most of the problems with the show were technical in nature. Fully three minutes (it felt like fifteen) at the very beginning take place in utter darkness—Hamlet is unlit in at least two of his soliloquies (which I can only assume was a conscious choice because he was so fantastic that I have to believe he knows how to find his light). Okay. I can understand the desire to have an artsy technical concept. But you don't want to light your actors so that I can see them from the audience? Really? You don't want me to see them?

The sound distracted from the performance instead of enhancing it. The set looked really stark and the paint job was poorly executed. The costumes were a bland palette of neutral colors: cream and black and white (Hamlet all in black, the rest of the cast all in white—subtle).

And aside from the technical disasters, IT WAS THREE HOURS AND FORTY-FIVE MINUTES LONG! Work some judicious time-saving measures, people!

All that said, at the end of the night, I told my friend that I would probably see it again if only to see Hamlet (the character, not the play) make love to the stage. My recommendation is that you do the same—but only after a few drinks.
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