In this imaginative upending of “Hamlet,” We Happy Few has put Ophelia front and center. It’s a refreshing concept, and mostly works pretty well in this new play by Amber Smithers and Daniel Rosen. This was its first public reading.
…imaginative, youthful, and gives Ophelia a chance to shine.
A quartet of actors that play their roles to the hilt. Miranda Hall is Ophelia in all her problematic glory — willful, needy, clinging, passionate, big-hearted, and generous. There is an alter-ego — Ebie Prideaux (Ophelia Ant)— who provides a running commentary in Ophelia’s head, working ceaselessly on her insecurities and yet, at times, being supportive. That voice in your head is not the frenemy you really need.
Kellan Oelkers give us conflicted, immature, and frustrated Hamlet. Sometimes he is so self-absorbed you just want to tell Ophelia to come back in five years or so. He too has an alter ego — Hamlet Ant (Elijah Williams), who, when he can muster up the interest, seems to be telling Hamlet not to tie himself down, especially to Ophelia. Hamlet Ant likes sowing those wild oats, in a very cool way.
Updated for the 21st century, the characters all interact through their cell phones with texts, FaceTime, and sometimes even a telephone call (okay, that didn’t seem that believable, but the shortness of the actual calls did).
The playwrights had their work cut out for them in updating the interpersonal relations of these characters to the present. Ophelia, wearing her heart on her sleeve, needs a lessons in boundaries. Hamlet’s motives in a hook-up culture were less clear. It wasn’t entirely obvious if he wanted to spare her feelings or string her along for some more sex. Given how little actual character development there is in some of Shakespeare’s female characters, this imaging was refreshing.
Ophelia also has a vlog and Hall shines in those moments. Her sincerity, her embracing of being a hot mess, and her passionate nature make for riveting soliloquies. One thing that seemed an afterthought was Ophelia’s pregnancy. It just didn’t have much impact.
The show was briskly directed by Des’ree Brown. The actors’ timing was nearly flawless, which is quite an achievement when dealing with a virtual environment.
This piece has a lot of potential, and there is already much to build upon. “Meet Me In The Nunnery” is imaginative, youthful, and gives Ophelia a chance to shine. I look forward to seeing what’s next in this play’s journey, and applaud We Happy Few for their vision.
Running Time: Approximately 45 minutes long with no intermission.
Show Advisory: Adult language.
“Meet Me In The Nunnery” is presented virtually by We Happy Few. For more information, please click here.