Published by the Austin Chronicle:
All Over Creation: Come Together
You're not alone in the theatre, and there's power in that
by Robert Faires
Having Helen Merino return to the role of Hamlet for Austin Shakespeare now – the production runs Sept. 22-Oct. 9 at the Long Center's Rollins Theatre – isn't in itself unusual. A few dozen blocks away, Emily Erington, Kelsey Kling, and Rebecca Robinson are back together as the sisters in Marion Bridge (see Exhibitionism for Elizabeth Cobbe's review), a play they first performed at Hyde Park Theatre in 2002 under director Ken Webster, who revisits past parts himself fairly often. Actors reprise roles all the time. What's curious about Merino slipping back into the inky cloak of the melancholy Dane is the timing: It's 10 years to the month of her initial stab at the role (a point chronicled on our Sept. 28, 2001, cover). Given all the recent remembrances of the tragic events of that September, Merino's return to Denmark sounds a strange echo of the first.
To my ears, anyway – I was in that earlier production of Hamlet, along with my wife, Barbara Chisholm, and our daughter, Rosalind, then just 8. My memories of it will be forever linked to 9/11 because the tragedy occurred two days before our Hamlet was to open. That day and the next, those of us in the show had no idea if people would want to see any play, much less one trafficking in as much blood and misery as Hamlet. Still, we were show folk, so we did what show folk do: rehearse and trust that somebody would show up on opening night. And much to our amazement, somebody did. Not in great numbers, but people came, and they seemed not only to want to be there but to need to be there – to be with others, sharing the pain they felt in a public place. Moreover, they needed to share a healing experience that would balance that shattering experience the entire country had shared. Hamlet may seem a curious choice for a balm, but its exploration of murder, of revenge, of grief, of our fragile mortality, all treated with such humanity, made it a cleansing drama in that moment.
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