Story: Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, is losing his grip on sanity in the wake of his father’s untimely death. When his mother Gertrude marries his father’s brother Claudius, barely a month after the death of the king, Hamlet is increasingly suspicious. His doubts are further heightened by the ominous appearance of his father’s ghost, warning him of what really happened.
The prince’s deteriorating mental condition blends poorly with the fragile state of Ophelia, daughter of the royal counselor Polonius and Hamlet's love interest. He chastises Ophelia even as he plots a scheme to trap Claudius into admitting that the latter murdered Hamlet’s father to usurp his throne.
Highlights: Hamlet, often referred to as the greatest play in William Shakespeare’s 38-work canon, offers seemingly limitless possibilities for interpretation by directors and actors. Lucy Cashion, guiding light of the area’s newest theatrical company, Equally Represented Arts, serves as director, adapter, scenic designer and sound designer for her company’s take on the quirky Danish prince in its inaugural effort, Make Hamlet.
Driven by the title role performance of Nick Henderson, an irrepressible force of combustible energy, Cashion’s fledgling troupe offers an interesting, if not always agreeable, rendition of The Bard’s melancholy Dane.
Other Info: Cashion has taken the scissors that are prevalently displayed in the show’s fight sequences to Shakespeare’s lengthy tragedy and pared it down to two acts running two and a half hours. She’s also excised several of the characters, with just six performers playing what remains.
Cashion’s effort springs from the play’s opening line, “Who’s there?” and evolves into her interpretation of the psychological war zone that permeates Elsinore.
Polonius, e.g., is depicted by an empty clown suit that also is worn on occasion by Henderson, whose Hamlet speaks the famous speech made by Polonius to his son Laertes (“Neither a borrower nor a lender be,” etc.). There’s also a ludicrous seduction scene between Ophelia, played by Jennifer Theby Quinn, and her father (again the clown suit).
On the other hand, the skull of Yorick serves as a stepping-off point for Mitch Eagles as Horatio, doing his own version of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy debating his existence.
The director’s sextet of players includes Julia Crump as a youthful and provocative Gertrude, Quinn as a fragile but flirtatious Ophelia, Ethan Jones as an imperial Claudius, Eagles as an amiable Horatio and Will Bonfiglio as a confused Laertes. Generally, they acquit themselves nicely in their roles, although Jones has a tendency to rush through his lines far too often.
Henderson is a captivating, compelling presence throughout, literally bounding all over and around the stage (even on some precipitous bleachers alongside the audience’s seating area), and he bellows the Dane’s quizzical dialogue with authority and enough off-kilter menace to keep everyone wary. Appropriately, Henderson handles the funky fight choreography as well.
Cashion’s sound design mixes traditional and pop elements, such as Lennon and McCartney’s masterpiece, A Day in the Life, with the medieval locale, and her setting includes two enormous sheets draping either side of the stage with large lines of hand-written dialogue.
Costume designer Meredith LaBounty has the players change from street clothes at the performance’s start into their characters’ garb before switching back to their own attire near the show’s conclusion, while Sean Savoie’s lighting is put to masterful use when the Ghost of King Hamlet speaks to his son.
Make Hamlet is Cashion’s very personal approach to the timeless appeal of one of Shakespeare’s most beguiling characters. Imperfect and improbable, it’s also intrepid and intriguing enough to warrant your consideration.
Play: Make Hamlet
Company: Equally Represented Arts
Venue: The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drive
Dates: April 29, 30, May 1, 2, 3
Tickets: $15-$20; contact 724-544-9084 or equallyrepresentedarts.com
Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.