The Rude Mechanicals, in residence at the Greenbelt Arts Center, is currently offering their unique, take on Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” online, entitled “Hamless.” This interesting look at the Shakespearean classic is produced by Joshua Engel and directed by Erin Nealer.
“Hamlet” has been a source of other plays in the past. “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” is one that comes to mind immediately. Like “Hamless,” Tom Stoppard’s play took characters out of the original story and gave them a closer look. This production imagines the Danish Court without Hamlet. All of our other favorites are here — Gertrude (Jaki Demarest), Claudius (Jacqueline Youm), Ophelia (Lexi Stein), Laertes (Allison McAlister), Polonius (Justin Bigelow), Horatio (Renee Ombaba), and even Rosencrantz (Claudia Bach) and Guildenstern (Michael Angeloni). As Hamlet is out of sight brooding, Queen Gertrude and King Claudius deal with governing and all the politics and social relationships in the castle. The original Shakespearean script is intact except for the removal of the scenes with Hamlet. Thus, the play goes from a two hour plus production to one just barely over an hour. It’s interesting to note that you do not need Hamlet’s character to follow the plot. This version gives a better focus on King Claudius and Queen Gertrude and their relationships to the other characters. I especially enjoyed the scene when Claudius manipulates Laertes into taking revenge on Hamlet by stirring up the younger man’s anger over the death of his father and sister. Laertes blames both deaths on the young Danish prince.
You will find yourself engrossed in the intricacies of the plot …Sit back and enjoy this delicious smorgasbord.
Nealer has formulated a fine cast. There is a great deal of cross-gender casting, but it does not distract from the show or the characters. This abbreviated version is much more of an ensemble performance. If there are leading characters, they would be Queen Gertrude and King Claudius. Demarest and Youm have created interesting takes on the roles. Demarest’s queen is more sympathetic, especially in her reaction to Ophelia and her death. Youm’s king is a bit better at governance than he is normally played, and Youm catches his duplicity well.
Stein plays the young Ophelia as the victim of all these political shenanigans and makes her very sympathetic and less unbalanced. McAlister as her brother, Laertes, also does an interesting job in that role. He is still easily manipulated, but not someone we pity.
The other actors — Bigelow as Polonius, Ombaba as Horatio, Bach as Rosencrantz/Prince Fortinbras, Angeloni as Guildenstern /Player Queen, Eve La Puma as Voltimand/Player Poisoner and Mikki Barry as Captain/Player King — all give fine performances.
A nod goes to Megan Parlett, the assistant director and stage manager; Tiffany M. Waters (Dramaturg); Alan Duda as the Zoominatographer, and Wes Dennis, in charge of social media. Putting together this large cast from various locations is no mean feat.
You will find yourself engrossed in the intricacies of the plot, and the 70 or so minutes will go by quicker than you like. Sit back and enjoy this delicious smorgasbord.
Running Time: One hour and 10 minutes with no intermission.
“Hamless” is presented on YouTube Fridays and Saturdays, March 12, 13, 19 and 20 at 7 p.m and Sundays, March 14 and 21 at 2 p.m. There is a talkback following the performance on March 21. While there is no charge, the company there is a suggested $10 donation at this link. To find out about other offerings from the Greenbelt Arts Center go to their website. To find out more information about The Rude Mechanicals, go to their website.