Hamlet goes to Hollywood

During this past weekend’s visit to Los Angeles, I made time for show #31, Hamlet: Prince of Denmark at the Doghouse Theatre. This production reminded me of my past enjoyment of site-specific pieces, where it was performed in someone’s own home in Hollywood. It also featured a good friend as part of the cast, so those connections also make the experience even more enjoyable.

I had somewhat of an opposite impression going into the show than what it actually turned out to be. Because of my friend’s performance background, I assumed that the play would be an improvised riff on the story of Hamlet. Instead, it is a straight-up abridgement of Shakespeare’s text. I didn’t mind the cuts as much as I did with another edited version I saw last year. The difference here was that the story progressed in a non-linear fashion, so that the production focused on epic moments of Hamlet’s tale. This approach climaxed in the ghost sequence, where several cast members took on lines of the Ghost and were directed to echo them across the performance space. The story proceeded with some verve, finding an energetic end point for Act 1, at the climax, and magically rewinding for Act 2.

If anything, the challenge or problem with Shakespearean interpretations like this is that the text is often so familiar that the absorption process, for the audience member, is less about how the actor is doing it and more about what they are doing. The creators seemed to understand this challenge and maintain their creativity.


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