Author Archive for: ‘KedarAdour’

HAMLET performed in a swimming pool?

Cast for Hamlet at California Shakespeare. Set by Clint Ramos. Photo by Kevin Burn.

HAMLET by William Shakespeare directed by Liesl Tommy. California Shakespeare Theatre, Bruns Amphitheater, 100 California Shakespeare Theater Way, (formerly 100 Gateway Blvd), Orinda, CA 94563. (just off Highway 24 at the California Shakespeare Theater Way/Wilder Rd. exit, one mile east of the Caldecott Tunnel. 510.548.9666 or Visit EXTENDED THROUGH -OCTOBER 21, 2012

HAMLET performed in a swimming pool??

Concept productions of Shakespeare’s play are de rigueur and California Shakespeare Company (CalShakes) has embraced the obligatory fashion in all of their productions that this reviewer has attended. In 2006 in their staging of The Merchant of Venice, Shylock’s home was a metal dumpster, really.  Would you believe that for this production of Hamlet, famed director Liesl Tommy, whose direction of  Ruined at Berkeley Rep garnered rave reviews, places the action in a swimming pool and its environs, really?

Yes, it is a swimming pool thankfully devoid of water, surrounded by a plethora of objects that don’t make sense until you read the program notes. Tommy envisions the play of a “family [that] is by turns poetic, absurd, romantic, violent and sad.” Decay is everywhere and with a brief stretch of the imagination seem odoriferous thus making the objects strewn about the stage as (with apologies to Proust) remembrance of things past.  An explanation was given during intermission.

The explanation, and it needs one, was that this is an elegant Miami mansion that has been devastated by a hurricane and the “the structure has outlived its inhabitants and is now a haunted place.”  OK, we’ve got it, now what about the play?

The story line is very clear although a purist will object to some of the cutting and rearranging of scenes. The major cut is the removing Prince Fortinbras  of  Norway who is to become the eventual King since Claudius has been killed and Hamlet is dying in the arms of Horatio. The beautiful soliloquy is cut and Horatio’s line, “Good night sweet Prince” is truncated as the 1960s song “Unchained Melody” wafts from the loudspeakers into the balmy autumn night. Really.

The saviors of the perfect evening for an outdoor performance are the actors playing most of the major characters.  As Polonius observes Hamlet’s feigned madness with an aside to the audience “Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t”,

LeRoy McClain as Hamlet

LeRoy McClain’s physicality and dominance creates an unforgettable Hamlet but his venture in to madness needs honing.  Dan Hiatt gives a strong performance as Polonius and when he doubles as a Grave Digger. Beautiful Julie Eccles transforms herself into Queen Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, matching McClain line for line in their epic verbal battle regarding her possible infamy for marrying Claudius and being implicated in her husband’s murder. Adrian Roberts as Claudius gives an adequate but unimpressive performance and as the Ghost, with his speech’s electronically echoed,  looks like a character in a Charles Addams’ cartoon.

Nicholas Pelczar as Laertes displays his talents with believable handling of mood changes demanded by the script. The pivotal role of Ophelia by Zainab Jah defies description since director Tommy has her being physically manhandled by McClain and later in her madness being trapped in an aquarium on upper stage right.  It’s seems a bit too much.

With all the perceived defects this production should not be missed because you will never see a Hamlet as performed by LeRoy McClain. Running time a long three hours and 10 minutes.

A Medical Note: If the poison placed in the Kings ear is to be affective there must be a perforation in his ear drum in order to be absorbed by the mucosa. Really.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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