Monday, August 22, 2011

Hamlet, Austin Drama Club at the Off Center, August 19-28

Rob Novak as Hamlet (image: Austin Drama Club)

by Brian Paul Scipione

An Unweeded Garden: Austin Drama Club’s 6th Production of Hamlet

Many will argue in favor of a favorite song or play is but few will put their money on what is the best. It is easiest to pinpoint what is the ultimate movie or band when one is, say, a freshman in college. Shakespeare is the best writer! Death Cab for Cutie is the most sublime band ever! Dostoevsky has captured the true infirmity of the human soul!

Yet as one ages, learns more, reads more and plainly just experiences more, one is likely to leave behind the notion that one is absolutely sure of anything. My favorite Shakespeare play is Measure for Measure but, nonetheless, Hamlet is probably the best of Shakespeares's plays.

Hamlet has the best lead role, the most emphatic villain, the saddest heroine, and comic foils everywhere. The plot is tight and movess between the supernatural and political themes with a seamlessness emulated in everything from Brave New World to Star Wars. Its ending is tragic beyond tragedy and its message as meaningful as it is morose. If a theatre company were to choose one work as their flagship production than they could do no better than this, Shakespeare’s magnum opus.

Of course, many would argue that the play is sprawling, complex, and behooving of a certain reverence: that is, it should not be approached lightly. This viewpoint was evident in the Hamlet produced last year by Black Swan Productions at the Scottish Rite Theatre and, later, at Boggy Creek cemetary.

Japhy Fernandes's most recent vision of the bard’s classic is on a different level, nay, on a different planet from the play’s traditional interpretation and this is by all means refreshing. He has crafted a version that highlights the eight main characters of the play and their stories. All minor characters and sub-plots have been completely excised. Horatio still barks that something is rotten in Denmark, but these characters are far from Denmark.

Read more at . . . .

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