To vary the pronoun and punctuation, “Age cannot wither him, nor custom stale, his infinite variety.” We are, of course, talking about Our Boy William Shakespeare, although that quote is from his Antony and Cleopatra. Rebels and Misfits Productions gives us their Immersive Theatre Project, Hamlet: See What I See, and in the wonderful Spanish-style building at 3207 Washington. (I remember it as Mosby Publishing, but it turns out it was originally built by an insurance firm.) The interior works well as the castle at Elsinore.
Their interpretation begins with a (real) cocktail party – one needs to enter up some stairs on the east side of the building – and they’re asking for no attendees under 18. To bring in another author of a much later age, this is a moveable feast, requiring the audience, guests at the castle, to follow along with the action, which is based in the lovely central atrium, but moves around.
It’s a fine, feisty cast, headed by a delicious young Hamlet, Brandon Alan Smith. It’s a pleasure to watch him work up close, seemingly unintimidated by a role with such heritage. Kelly Hummert, who’s the artistic director of the group, is Ophelia, mad in love with a guy who seems to have gone mad on her. Kudos, too, to Reginald Pierre, calm and strong as Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle, now stepfather, and Christopher Tipp playing Laertes and doubling on guitar. Speaking of music, there are three performers, actors who are also dancing, Tyler Cheatem, Leif Newberg and Andrea Reed, that lift things up, figuratively as well as literally. Francesca Ferrari carries Gertrude, queen and Hamlet’s widowed mother with dignity and gloom to make us ponder Gertrude’s inner dialogue.
Directed by Melanie Armer, who was among the audience and actors, the show has fine sound from Chad Raines, although since the actors are moving and not miked, it’s sometimes difficult to hear, depending on the space between an actor and a listener. Lovely and innovative lighting from John Eckert adds to the effect of the setting.
Between the philosophy of the presenting group and the realities of the setting, a few explanations are in order. They encourage attendees to “wear festive attire” to the court setting. Just to contrast Hamlet’s Denmark and today’s theatre, the “participatory use of cellular devices is encouraged”, but without video or flash. Both sequins and Instagram were noted on opening night, but there were jeans and sweatshirts, too. The mobility-challenged are presented, unfortunately, with obstacles. Besides those entry stairs, guests – excuse me, the audience – goes up a pair of lovely curved staircases to the balcony surrounding the atrium, and down some stairs, out the front door, around to a side patio and back in the front door. (It’s chilly out there, but the stay isn’t more than five minutes or so.) In addition, there are only a few banquet chairs on the sidelines, and what can be seen and heard from them is very limited. Essentially, attendees need to be prepared to stand the entire evening.
It’s a fascinating presentation, with some good acting and forward thinking. Just understand the physical situation.
Hamlet: See What I See
through November 18
Rebels and Misfits Productions
Barnett on Washington