I’ve just returned from seeing a Shakespearean production, and as per usual I am feeling overly emotional and deeply contemplative.
This evening featured Hamlet with the Harrisburg Shakespeare Company: a cut down production that brought you through the full spectrum of the human experience in just over 90 minutes. Within the first five minutes (maybe ten?), I found tears in my eyes.
Putting a bottle of pills in Hamlet’s hands, this production highlighted the insanity in all of us, and asked us to consider how we coped: Pills? Alcohol? Denial?
More than anger or insanity, both Hamlet (Ian Potter) and Ophelia (Katie Miller) channeled deep sadness, especially during the nunnery scene. Coping with her father’s murder, Miller’s Ophelia seemed painfully cognizant of the world around her. Her reunion with Laertes (Thomas Weaver) allowed them to share a moment of grief together: a moment I have never seen in a production of Hamlet before.
Of course, the run-time added a few extra casualties to the play. More than once I found myself missing a line or interaction that had fallen under the knife; unsurprisingly, Fortinbras was missing entirely. Nevertheless, the adaptation maintained the integrity and complexity of the play in the end.
The way that these plays affect me always surprises me. Counting this one, I have seen five different phenomenal productions–two of them live (this one and one in NYC), and three of them recorded (Branagh, Tennant, Kinnear)–as well as countless readings and clips from other productions.
Coming into this performances, I had doubts: Would this still stun me? Leave me nauseated and heartbroken? And, clearly, the answer is a resounding YES. The question I don’t have an answer to is How?
How can these words, that I know so well, that were written so very long ago, still surprise me with laughter and with tears?
I suppose I hope I never find an answer to that one.
Hamlet is running at Gamut Theatre the following days/times: Sunday March 1 and 8 at 2:30pm; Friday March 6 and Saturday March 7 at 7:30pm. Tickets are $12–get them while you you.