Friday, February 19, 2010

Theater: Hamlet Without The Napping

While I love seeing Shakespeare plays, it's not un-heard-of, during the longer ones, for my brain to start whispering to me, "You know, it's really dark. If you closed your eyes for just a few minutes, odds are nobody would notice."

That wasn't an issue tonight. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival's first 2010 performance of Hamlet was a Zero Napping Event. The issue wasn't keeping my eyes open, it was deciding which actor to keep them on.

Dan Donohue was Hamlet. I keep thinking of him as a comic actor, and I keep being reminded that his is a multipurpose toolkit. The elements that I think of as being comedy assets - the perfect timing, the chameleon voice and face, the whole space-alien morphing thing that he uses to transform from the geeky weakling in one play to the towering fighting man in his prime in another - they're all just as valuable, I realize over and over, in drama and tragedy.

Donohue's Hamlet was powerful, desperate, and funny, and he scooped up the audience and carried them on that ride with him. No whining. No waffling. No wishing, on the audience's part, that he'd just get over it. And when I say "funny", I don't mean that he added inappropriate comedy; I'm talking about that black, irrational laughter that sometimes bubbles up at a funeral or a disaster.

Susannah Flood as Ophelia was a geeky, awkward adolescent, not the traditional forgettable Victorian watercolor. I believed in her. I liked her. I winced for her when her troubles were human-sized, and I was arrested by the power in her later madness.

I'd go on, but I'd just keep on going. This isn't one of those plays with dead-weight performances that don't quite fit with the rest, so I'd have to talk about everyone. I'll stop here and just advise: Go see it.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.


  1. I'd definitely see that one if I lived on the opposite side of the country lol.

  2. Yeah, I suppose that's a slight problem. :) Unless they started showing OSF plays in movie theaters, like they do with opera.

  3. OSF in theatres is a good idea. i LOVE DD as Hamlet, the best I've ever seen, just because so much of H has become a cliche... Poor Urick... DD just tossed that line aside and moved on to things that we all couldn't orate along with him.

    the twitchy Ophelia, I'm still on the fence. She certainly is memorable, and I guess holding centerstage with DD is going to require every trick in the book. the up side... i could buy her madness, she kind of started that way ;-)

  4. I still really like Ophelia. :) All the twitchiness seemed to perfectly fit the geeky uncertain adolescent girl. And I'm more impressed after seeing her again in Pride and Prejudice, playing a very different (if perhaps just as crazy) adolescent.