Thursday, July 22, 2010

Show #37 "Hamlet" at Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Believe it or not, after being such a "theatre junkie" for well over a decade, I have never seen a production of Shakespeare's "Hamlet." I guess it's not performed too often. Clocking in at 3 hours and 20 minutes, I can see why.

The students in our Shakespeare In Ashland class were all abuzz about this show. Many of the participants are English teachers who teach this text every school year to their high school students. By contrast, I only read this script for the first time last week, in preparation for this class.

So, I had no pre-conceived notions about the play, so I guess it was hard to either impress me or disappoint me with this show.

I will have to say I was impressed in that I was thoroughly engaged in the story for the entire 3 hours and 20 minutes. That's hard to do.....

I also thought Dan Donohue, who played Hamlet, gave a performance worthy of a Tony. Too bad he wasn't on Broadway when we saw him. He'd be a shoo-in for Best Actor.

And, one of the other elements at the OSF I enjoy is their commitment to non-traditional casting. Here we saw an African-American Queen Gertrude, a deaf Ghost of Hamlet's father, female Rosencrantz and Guildensterns and a middle-aged Hispanic Horatio.

Some folks fussed a bit about some of those casting choices, but not me. Non-traditional can be an eye-opener and breathe new life into an old classic. There was also interesting updates to the time period. This was a modern Hamlet in a techno-savvy Denmark.

"The Mousetrap" show was performed as a hip hop number. Wow....what a delight. Ophelia was wired for sound when her father and the king attempted to entrap Hamlet. These were effective choices.

But, as supportive I am of non-traditional casting and performances, I did wonder at one thing. At the end of the show when the Norwegian prince Fortinbras enters the castle, the actor spoke, not in a Norwegian accent, but in an odd Scottish-sounding accent.

Yes, it was at the tail end of a long and otherwise brilliant production, but perhaps we in the audience needed an exercise break after 3 hours. Because we all shook our heads in unison.


No comments:

Post a Comment