July 21, 2004
Hamlet a Righteous Dude at Raven Playhouse
By Mary Mallory
A combination beat poetry festival and Saturday Night Live skit, Hamlet … as Told on the Street is not your daddy’s old Hamlet. This Hamlet possesses attitude and energy to burn. It’s a raucous, modern, graphic take on the Shakespearean tale that reinvigorates the story.
Adapted by producer/director Jeremy Asher from a poem written for Playboy magazine by renowned poet and writer Shel Silverstein, Hamlet … as Told on the Street sexes up the action and unfolds in rhyme, riffs, folk and references to other Shakespeare works.
The evening commences like a typical poetry night at any local bohemian Beatnik coffeehouse. A smooth, hepcat narrator announces the acts and keeps the program flowing. Each of the poets in verse, rhyme or song reveals parts of the story or character traits found in the story of Hamlet.
After intermission, the narrator, a sensitive, thoughtful Rich Pierrelouis, describes the play as a remembrance to a dear, departed friend. Hamlet… becomes a pointed satire in one act that embraces sensuality of all types.
Director Asher inspires his zany troupe to strut their stuff as well as successfully capturing the paranoia of an obsessed, nebbish poet. Pierrelouis acts as the steady anchor around whom chaos and exuberance flow. Jason Weissbrod is the master thespian of the troupe, flamboyant, excitable and eerily believable as an egotistical lead actor.
Reuben Sears struts around as the pretentious and vain Polonius. Michael Jerome West deftly underplays his roles of Claudius and the ghost, while perfectly filling the role of beat poet extraordinaire.
Kudos to guitarist, Matt Buell, for his original compositions, witty improvisations and excellent accompaniment.
Hamlet … as Told on the Street is an entertaining hybrid and successful adaptation of Silverstein’s clever work.
The 2AFC production continues its short run at the Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood through July 31. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $12. Call (818) 754-1423 for information or reservations.
See Original Review At The Tolucan Times Website
Many have said that Shakespeare has to be churning in his grave after all the variations and deviations performed on his works by “avant garde” companies. Not to be outdone, 2AFC Productions overran the Raven Playhouse and promptly staged their take on the late and famous Shel Silverstein’s hilarious version of Hamlet, reducing it to a mere nine players and about one hour.
The similarity starts and ends at the closing – where everyone dies. The rest is pure folly, played in the pseudo beatnik style of the ‘60’s, laced with wit and comic zingers, not to mention outrageous characters, costumes that seemed to be discards from the Goodwill Industries and actors who are having the time of their lives with the Bard.
Jon DeMitchell’s Hamlet is sufficiently melancholy and the fair Ophelia is indeed fair in the person of Heather Klinke. We love the ghost as conjured by Michael Jerome West, who also does the dastardly Uncle, with a little less “umph”, accompanied by the beautiful and serenely immoral mother who explains to Hamlet that she readily hopped into the uncle’s lair just to keep her status going. Amy Parks is wickedly good as Gertrude.
As far as the play within a play staged by Hamlet to let the uncle know that he is aware of the immoral plot, the actors playing the role of the actors are great at being awful. Especially hideous is Jeremy Asher who is a riot as the female lead within the play, complete with coke bottle glasses and beard, accompanied by evil Jason Weissbrod who has flashes of a young hot headed Sean Penn.
Just to let us know what’s going on, Rich Pierrelouis narrates the play and doubles as Horatio, Hamlet’s main man, and somehow manages to be the only one alive at the end. The cat’s got nine lives!
For some reason, the company decided to stage a two-tier show, where the first half is a loose series of “poetry readings”, supposedly from the 60’s and 70’s with some songs and a few jokes performed by the same cast members pretending to do open mic sessions. Some were good, most were duds, with the audience talking through most of the show and very little effort made at being serious. The time could have been better spent extending the Silverstein version of Hamlet, which was head and shoulders better than the first half and worth every minute of the wait.
Other players included Reuben Sears as Polonius, Steve Humphreys as Laertes, and Matt Buell as the strolling musician playing guitar.
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See Original Review At ReviewPlays.Com