Thursday, September 18, 2008

Review: Dashiell Hamlet

Dashiell Hamlet
City Lit Theatre

This innovative new look at the classic Shakespeare play is a pun on the Noir-style writer Dashiell Hammett. City Lit Theatre is presenting this play which sets the tragedy of Hamlet in Hollywood in the post-war 1940's. The play is narrated by Horatio who this time around is a private eye there to help his friend investigate what they believe to be his father's murder. The play is ingeniously done, well executed, and despite a few minor hang-ups, is a wonderful and delightful evening of theatre for Shakespeare lovers and non-Shakespeare lovers alike.

The first act plays scene for scene - and practically beat for beat - with the original Hamlet. The delightful parallels and choices to steer things in an updated nuance unfold at a rapid pace that leaves the audience member through the story at a break-neck pace. The scenes are punctuated with the private diary/monologues of the private investigator (played by Mark Pracht) through the death/murder of Polonius. The second act starts to take its own course as the new telling parts with the Shakespeare leading to a surprise twist at the end.

The overall effect of the production is mixed. Through most of the fist act, the cast seems to struggle through some of the 1940's style dialogue which is ripe with cliches from the era. The language is tricky and most do ok for the most part, but there are certain lines that cause stumbling. The action of the play is compelling enough to distract us from the miscues and carries us into the second act which functions fluidly.

Mark Pracht is excellent as the iconic P.I. His performance is so hard-boiled that your could slice him up and make an egg salad sandwich out of him. Geoff Rice as "Hamlet" does a nice job of being a despondent youth and not getting too caught up in the brooding of the Danish Prince. Andy Hager and Melissa Dileonard play the Rosencrantz and Guldenstern counter parts doing an excellent job of bringing the early Hollywood entertainer quality to their relationship with Hamlet that shed some clarification on their relationship in the original text.

Overall this is a theatre event that is not to be missed - truly refreshing and original. Please go see it if you have the chance.

Happy Birthday: Harold Clurman (1901-1980) and Agnes de Mille (1905-1993)

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