Who needs to see another rehash of the play about a moody prince from Denmark? You do. Get thee to A Two Woman Hamlet for this palpable hit. The titular women, Hannah Sweet and Nicola Collett, bring energy, clarity, and fun to this well-trodden tale that you don’t want to miss.
You may remember the broad strokes of Hamlet from English class. Or the movies. Or you may once have glanced over the Wikipedia plot synopsis. In any case, here’s a brief refresher of the inciting incidents. Hamlet’s dad, the king, has died. His dad’s brother, Claudius, is now king and rather quickly after the funeral married Hamlet’s mom, Gertrude. Hamlet is pretty bummed about these developments, but his bad feelings go into overdrive when his dad’s ghost tells Hamlet he was murdered by Claudius. That’s when Hamlet decides to pretend he’s crazy and get revenge against his uncle.
As with any Shakespearean play, language can either be the reason you love it or a major barrier to following the plot. It is in Mara Sherman’s direction and Collett and Sweet’s delivery of this tricky text that the production sets itself apart from others. The performers’ ease and delight in speaking the lines kept the scenes from descending into a fog of high-flown Elizabethan wordiness. The team’s skillful interpretations showed me dimensions to scenes that had never pulled into focus for me before. There were three or four times during the play I thought to myself, “So that’s what they meant!” or “I didn’t even realize that line was supposed to be funny!”
A Two Woman Hamlet
closes July 28, 2018
Details and tickets
Collett tackled the sizable role of Hamlet with vigor, while Sweet lent her considerable talents to the bulk of the other main characters. Logistics were clearly a key consideration in divvying up the parts, but neither Collett or Sweet was ever half-hearted in her portrayal of even the smallest role. Sweet particularly reveled in her roles as Hamlet’s nerdy friend Horatio, the manipulating opportunist Claudius, the bumbling bros Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and the ribald Gravedigger, each of which provided comedic contrast to Collett’s refreshingly sane and relatable Hamlet. And just you wait for the final duel between Hamlet and Laertes, both played by Collett. The performers keep to their assigned roles, save for Gertrude and Ophelia, which are played by both of them so they could keep more of the lines of the only two female characters in the play.
The production keeps its design spare with minimalist character-differentiating costume elements hanging from two hat stands flanking the stage. I particularly liked it when the scarves, neckties, or hats stood in for the characters themselves when Collett or Sweet had to become another character in the scene. These changes could have been a confusing mess, but the performers handled the more complicated character-change moments well and even managed to make them funny. The house lights were kept up for the duration of the performance, which I felt was an odd choice at first. But as the show progressed, being able to see the reactions and enthusiasm of the audience around me became integral to the experience of the show.
A Two Woman Hamlet kept this notoriously long play to a tight 80 minute run time, which is no small feat. The script was pared down ruthlessly, but I didn’t miss what was left out. The scenes that remained captured everything I expected to see in a production of Hamlet, while also highlighting characters and plot moments in new and compelling ways. Sweet and Collett kept the pace brisk and engaging and made this traditionally tragic play a humorous and entertaining romp through Elsinore.
A Two Woman Hamlet. Director: Mara Sherman. Fight Choreographer: Carl Brandt Long. Assistant Director/Production Assistant: Rebecca Speas. Poster Artist: Hannah Sweet. Musical Arranger and Hat Stand Maker: Nicola Collett. Featuring: Hanna Sweet (Francisco, Claudius, Cornelius, Polonius, Gertrude, Horatio, Ophelia, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, The Player, Norwegian Captain, The Gravedigger, Osric). Nicola Collett (Barnardo, Gertrude, Voltemand, Laertes, Hamlet, Ophelia, Messenger, Fortinbras).
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