Hamlet in a Hurry
By Patrick Hurley
There is a sense of urgency to Bedlam’s four actor production of Hamlet, playing now in repertory with George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan at the Broad Stage. The urgency, coupled with one of the western world’s most significant pieces of literature, creates a shambolic, rutted and somewhat hastened experience- rather like running through the Louvre in a wayward attempt to see it all. Even with the breakneck speed, where it occasionally slows up to demonstrate the more “significant,” or at least recognizable scenes, the evening drags on and still comes in over three hours in length. The main question one has to walk away with is…why the rush? Is there a benefit to playing the dialogue rather than the scene? Should a director allow actors to rely solely on the beauty of the language to uphold the dramatic actions? Because in reality, it doesn’t work. It becomes a spoken word event or a rattling on of sorts wherein the audience feels not only extricated but a bit wearied.
Director Eric Tucker has some noteworthy ideas, and perhaps in a more suitable space they would have been less gimmicky, like the use of flashlights instead of theatrical lighting, or having the actors play in the audience for a good portion of the first Act-in an open warehouse or even black box space this would have been more effective that it is in a proscenium. Mr. Tucker also has a very gifted group of actors to work with here; Aubie Merrylees takes on the title role of Hamlet with gusto and has some strong moments, but far too often he is forced to rush and he emotes somewhat erratically. The rest of the ensemble all play several roles. Aundria Brown, as the sole female performer has the pleasure of playing Gertrude and Ophelia, and has a very unassailable and affable air throughout. Sam Massaro does well distinguishing all of his many characters, and Kahlil Garcia as Polonius and Laertes was a fun bit when they first appeared together. The doubling and tripling of actors in some scenes felt more like a sketch comedy version of Hamlet which is fine, were it not for the fact that this production is not nearly as entertaining as a sketch comedy show. The actors do all they can, and still, in the frenzied pace they mostly appear to be just getting through moments, rather than playing them. Again, it seems important to reiterate, that sprinting doesn’t work for a piece as monumental as this. It seems that this production could benefit from the Bard’s advice, “go wisely and slowly. Those who rush, stumble and fall.”
Bedlam is known for their stripped-down and economical productions where they use innovative theatricality in place of big budget productions. Would that they also, at least in this case, played the play. It felt like a sprint to the finish line of a marathon, and when you have a dramatic masterpiece in your hands, just getting through it is about as satisfying as having run the marathon by yourself.
What: BEDLAM: HAMLET + SAINT JOAN
HAMLET by William Shakespeare
In repertory with
SAINT JOAN by George Bernard Shaw
Where: The Eli & Edythe Broad Stage
1310 11th St. Santa Monica CA 90401. Limited free parking is available.
When: April 5 to 15, 2018
April 5 – April 14
Three hours & 10 minutes, including two intermissions.
Thursday, April 5 at 7:30pm
Saturday, April 7 at 7:30pm
Sunday, April 8 at 2:00pm
Wednesday, April 11 at 7:30pm
Friday, April 13 at 7:30pm
Saturday, April 14 at 2:00pm
April 6 – April 15
Three hours, including two intermissions.
Friday, April 6 at 7:30pm
Saturday, April 7 at 2:00pm
Thursday, April 12 at 7:30pm
Saturday, April 14 at 7:30pm
Sunday, April 15 at 2:00pm
Prices: Start at $45. (Prices subject to change)
Phone: Patron Services at 310.434.3200
In Person: Box office at 1310 11th St. Santa Monica CA 90401 beginning three hours prior to performance.