Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hamlet, Sam Bass Community Theatre, Round Rock, February 10 - March 3

Hamlet Sam Bass Community Theatre

Why climb a mountain? Because it's there.

Sam Bass Community Theatre in Round Rock is a small, hard working group of friends who know their public and regularly serve up dramatic fare that's been tested and approved in the community kitchens across the country. Those Futrelle sisters of the mythical small town of Fayro, Texas, imagined by the trio of Hope, Jones, and Wooten, for example; or other kinder and more thoughtful staples of middle class dramatic life. The company does a good job on their tiny stage and the familiar faces satisfy and console.

About once a year they stretch. Not a little, but a lot. In 2008 with Romeo and Juliet and in 2010 with Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett's mid-20th century absurdist existentialist masterpiece. In 2011 with Frank Benge's magical steam-punk Tempest Project. This year director Lynn Beaver takes on the Mt. Everest of English-language theatre, the story of the much-wronged and much-haunted prince of a Denmark that never really existed except in imagination.

In the compiled version that has come down to us Hamlet is Shakespeare's longest text, more than4000 lines of unforgettable verse that takes more than four hours to play entire. Just about everyone knows the story. The language, expressions and imagery live deep in the shared culture.

Beaver's version at the Sam Bass plays start to finish in two hours, including an intermission. Key scenes are there but in order to achieve that concision the text has been amputated again and again. Those who know it only vaguely won't be disturbed, for the story remains as strong as ever, but devotees of Shakespeare's language may experience the gaps as disconcerting.

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