Friday, April 15, 2011

Wiring HAMLET for Quad

UW-Parkside is quadruplicating Hamlet

By Russ Bickerstaff
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UW-Parkside is tackling its upcoming Hamlet in four pieces. Four characters play the tragic hero in a production that looks inspired by a Steampunk aesthetic. Two men and two women tackle the role—all at the same time. Playing the role of the title character are students Eva Balistrieri, Chad Bay, Sarah Dill, and Jon Finnegan. (These being students from outside Milwaukee, I’m not as familiar with any of the names. The one name that pops out at me here is Balistrieri, who had made notable appearances with First Stage. Many know her as one of the Cratchit girls in a few different appearances in the Milwaukee Rep’s annual A Christmas Carol.) Each of the actors will portray a different aspect of Hamlet’s personality. All four are onstage whenever Hamlet is—with three standing in the periphery as they take turns entering the action. It’s kind of a cool way to let multiple actors into a very, very high profile role for the sake of giving more of an onstage experience for student actors going through the program.

Okay, I don’t doubt that this will be interesting, but will it work? The two UW-Milwaukee productions I’d seen that did this sort of things had mixed results. Rebecca Holderness’ staging of Dario Fo’s The Accidental Death of an Anarchist had a number of people playing the title character—and it was brilliant—but when she had a cast of several playing Jesus in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, the effect wasn’t quite as coherent. The challenge for director Childs Daly is going to be making the four actors work as a cohesive whole that the rest of the cast doesn’t look extremely foolish addressing as a single person. Continuity is absolutely essential.

This is a really interesting approach to tackling an admittedly overdone drama. And I don’t envy the one of the four who will have to utter the whole To Be Or Not To Be thing for reasons I’ve mentioned a few other places before, but this is one that I wouldn’t mind going out to Kenosha to see. And depending how the rest of the production design is executed, it could end up being a really novel Shakespeare.

UW_Parkside’s production of Hamlet runs April 15th – 30th.  For reservations, call 262-595-2564.

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