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Laertes and hamlet presents impulsive anger reactions in the play hamlet

As names and roles are called, each picks up a black book with the assigned character name s boldly emblazened on it -- books that will help audience members throughout the night know who is who and books that will also be cleverly, often with great impact, used as props.

Once assigned, each dashes off the stage to prepare not only appropriate mindset but also the called-for hair and costume -- in all of the five minutes allotted before first words.

In the meantime, audience members are buzzing; their hearts are pumping; and the anticipation is sky high how this will all actually play out. Just knowing that there are 5400 possible combinations of actors and parts i. Now that is exciting! Shotgun Players has in fact kicked off its 25th season with a Hamlet that surely will become the talk of the town, if not the entire American theatre world — not only because of this innovative, risky casting methodology, but also mainly because of the incredibly powerful, engaging, and heart-pumping result.

This Hamlet immediately breaks the fourth wall, grabs the audience as partners, and keeps them engaged throughout. We are at times like a live TV audience with our main host, Hamlet, pulling us in as collaborators and co-conspirators. At other times, we could be in a park watching a San Francisco Mime Troupe production, with a sense of informality and familiarity.

High physicality, a constant sense of the immediate, and even a feeling of improvisation make this Hamlet fast-paced even when there are well-timed pauses.

Nothing short of brilliance can be used to describe what Mark Jackson has accomplished. Two red, chiffon curtains slide in all sorts of combinations across a stage that rises above the main, otherwise blank floor, becoming ways for characters to hide but still to be seen, for Hamlet to joke with the audience as he whimsically plays with the flimsy material, and for actors to show impulsive and violent tempers in the way the curtains retreat or appear.

Costume choices by Christine Crook that must be ready for various shapes and sexes to play any part are also minimal but to a person effecting, with sheer-fabric capes turning a man instantly into a woman or with a sash and tie along with suddenly slicked-back hair but never a wig transforming a woman into a king. Especially high kudos must go to Matt Stines for a sound design that may be one of the best-timed, most exacting, highest effect designs seen on a local stage in many a year.

Background pounding sounds and ticking seconds ominously keep us aware that something is building up to no good. Other sounds remind us this is a live-audience setting with the sometimes flare and even fun of Hollywood.

But it is when a sword is drawn and when the highly anticipated sword fight between Laertes and Hamlet occurs that Matt Stines proves he is a master sound designer and executioner. No matter how many Shakespearean sword fights an audience member may have seen anywhere — including Ashland, Stratford, or London — this may be the most exciting, jaw-dropping, and realistic one ever seen with much credit going to Mr.

And then there are all the actors.

Recall, all actors are essentially stand-ins for all parts. Just think about that task: Memorize all of Hamlet; know all entrances, exits, and blockings; be prepared to sword-fight the one thing all seven actors practice each night before the curtain ; and be ready to step in at the pull of a paper slip into some of the most iconic parts of all Shakespeare that most audience members already have in mind how they should be played.

To review the actors means to give a one-night-only opinion; but the particular ensemble combo of Opening Night was so spectacular that it is actually a shame it may in fact not be seen again.

Sometimes switching roles and sexes with the turn of his back only to face us in the next persona, Mr. Medina used voice, mannerisms, and simple costume switches to maximum effect. As old Polonius, Cathleen Riddle delivered her just assigned lines with incredible speed that still showed much nuance and notion of a father fixated on a royal wedding between his Ophelia and Hamlet even as the Prince is showing many signs of distracted madness.

El Bah and Megan Trout stepped ably enough into the royal couple Laertes and hamlet presents impulsive anger reactions in the play hamlet and Gertrude, but they jumped into the hapless Rosencrantz and Guildenstern roles with hilariously frozen faces like deer in front of headlights each time Hamlet asked of them some question.

Kevin Clarke was a Ghost that stunned Hamlet and Horatio and audience alike with his sudden appearances and his piercing intensity of message. As Gravedigger, his interactions with Hamlet were like a comic duo and produced the desired levity preceding the next upcoming scenes of blood and death.

As Laertes, Beth Wilmot got the starring minutes of a lifetime in a swordfight that will be long-remembered and much-talked-about by anyone who happened to be there last evening. Each night will have the excitement and freshness of another opening. Some casts may work better than others, but the ingenuity of the overall production should ensure each production will be worthwhile.

Trout found the moments before the show started at Shotgun Players in Berkeley, Calif. Trout, along with her six cast mates, had thrown caution—and perhaps their sanity—to the wind when they signed on for Hamlet Roulette, an ambitious experiment concocted by director Mark Jackson and Shotgun artistic director Patrick Dooley. And it was only moments before the first scene that Trout found out that she would play Hamlet that night.

On the second night of previews, Trout doubled as Gertrude and Guildenstern; El Beh, who played those roles the first night, played the melancholy Dane in the third preview. Five of the seven actors double in two roles.

Casting was the first challenge. Dooley and Jackson wanted a cast that reflected their diverse community and ended up with four women and three men of varying ages, ethnicities, and sexual orientations. Jackson made the editing job a full-cast project. The doubling decisions felt natural: Horatio and Ophelia both love Hamlet, Polonious and Osric are comic foils, the Ghost and the gravedigger are both connected to death.

Then the cast had to start learning their parts—all of them. Jackson also struggled, looking for coherent ways to run rehearsal. That would have been too much. Trout says she wishes she could have had another shot at Hamlet the next night. But bear with me a second. This scrappy theater company is celebrating its 25th anniversary by launching an especially ambitious season of plays that will all be done in repertory, and they're starting with a doubly ambitious way of tackling an already difficult play: Seven actors begin each night's performance not knowing which role laertes and hamlet presents impulsive anger reactions in the play hamlet play, and an audience member then draws that night's cast out of Yorick's skull, from multiple possible combinations.

This of course requires all the cast members to learn the entire play backwards and forwards, and to be as fleet-footed and game, every night, as they possibly can be, with only five minutes between finding out who they're playing and the show beginning.

While on one level, yes, it's a stunt being performed by some well trained actors, for the delight of theater nerds, it's also an exciting and evocative way to experience a play that most theater-goers are already more than familiar with, not to mention an intriguing look inside the play itself.

Rather than playing individual characters, as company member Kevin Clarke puts it, "We're all doing the play. No matter how many times you hear the "What a piece of work is man" soliloquy, it's going to mean something a little different coming from a female performer than from a man, or from an older actor versus a younger one — and as director Mark Jackson says, "Hamlet is a character that everyone connects to.

But with three women in the cast of seven and only two female roles, as well as double-casting of some roles, there will always be someone playing another gender — last night, an African-American woman, Cathleen Riddley, played Laertes, and every night, the same actor must play both Ophelia and Horatio, in this case it was a younger white woman, Megan Trout. This is a pared down, two-hour cut of the play in which a number of the less crucial scenes disappear, and Hamlet and Ophelia end up as the Player King and Queen in the brief play-within-the-play.

Clarke got his third shot at Hamlet last night, and it came off as a studied, fully realized, and energetic performance with considered nuance given to some of the most famous lines — and, after all, "the play's the thing" takes on all new meaning in a meta production like this.

Clarke said afterward that cast members typically prepare each day as if they might play Hamlet that night, but yesterday, he says, "I said fuck it, I'm listening to Prince on BART and being sad.

So of course, when I pulled Hammie, I was like, oh lord. In each book, with easily thumbed open tabs, is that performer's script for the night — and while no one actually had to find any lines in theirs during last night's performance, the actors reportedly spend much of their time backstage refreshing their memories about what comes next.

The books in hand partly serve to pull the audience out of the story and remind us of the experiment, but they also help us remember who's who, and they become part of everyone's costume.

While on the one hand, the cast doesn't even appear to need the on-stage crutches anymore, after a few weeks of previews, it's not as if we're otherwise supposed to be fooled that anyone actually is Danish royalty here. The labeled scripts almost call to mind schoolbooks, and the cast can be seen as students — albeit very skilled ones — studying and repeatedly re-enacting Shakespeare's text. And students they are. Some of these stalwart performers are simultaneously in rehearsals for Shotgun's next production, premiering next month, The Village Bike, and will then be doing both shows in repertory, after which a third show will get added to the mix in July, and so on, which means this roulette version of Hamlet will be ongoing in their lives, with them returning to the text periodically at least through next January — and if that's not Shakespeare School, I don't know what is.

You might call it "Hamlet Roulette Style. I can see this production having great success nationally or internationally. Before the performance seven actors dressed in white shirts and khaki pants come onto the stage and stand before the audience.

A member of the audience draws from a skull a slip of paper announcing who will play the parts for that night's performance. There are 5400 possible combinations, with either male or female for the roles of Hamlet and Ophelia. Each actor picks up a book with his or her character's name embellished on it. The actors then go off stage to prepare for the role for all of five minutes. Mark Jackson has had the seven member cast go through months of workshops, eight weeks of round-robin rehearsals, and 14 previews, going to extremes to keep the roles in working memory.

On the night I attended, Artistic Director Patrick Dooley picked the slip of paper from the skull and told each of the seven very gifted actors who would play whom for this audience. Over the next two and half hours this production broke the fourth wall between audience and actors in an exciting presentation on the small stage.

Laertes and hamlet presents impulsive anger reactions in the play hamlet

David Sinaiko played Hamlet as an angry young man who was something of a madman. He gave an outstanding performance with his eyes darting and his razor sharp voice. He was one of the most athletic Hamlets I have ever seen, jumping and tumbling through the production.

Nick Medina gave a splendid performance as Ophelia. He morphed into the character without playing it high camp. He also played Hamlet's best friend Horatio and beautifully switched roles with his voice and mannerisms. His mad Ophelia scene toward the end of the play was awesome with a New Orleans jazz singing voice.

El Bay and Megan Trout were splendid as the royal couple Claudius and Gertrude and they wonderfully transformed into the roles of ill-fated Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Cathleen Riddley was pitch perfect as Polonius while Kevin Clarke gave vivid performances of the Ghost and the Gravedigger.

Laertes and hamlet presents impulsive anger reactions in the play hamlet

He played the role of the Gravedigger in a somewhat comic vein. Beth Wilmurt shined as Laertes. The swordfight between Laertes and Hamlet at the end was fascinating. They had no swords, but thanks to Matt Stines' sound design of swords clicking, it was an amazing accomplishment.

Nina Ball's set on the small stage consisted of two red chiffon curtains across the stage for characters to hide but still be seen. Costumes by Christine Cook were minimal but effective. Lighting by Nikita Kadam transformed the blank stage from the king's investiture to a graveyard skillfully. In fact, I thought they were off their rocker. It sounded like a gimmick: When the show begins, it has the feel of an improv performance. The actors are on edge, foolish, at ease, yet brimming with excitement, goofing around with palpable tension.

Pulling their roles from the skull, they leap with excitement, laugh, congratulate one another and run off in glee. The tone is as far from Shakespearean pomposity as one can possibly imagine. Ophelia doubling as Horatio was a young man. Polonius doubling as Osiric was a middle-aged Black woman. Claudius and Gertrude were young women, and doubled as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.