Sunday, August 22, 2010

FRINGE: Hamlettes

Going into Hamlettes, I expected a light comedy about 12-year-old girls staging Hamlet (this is not the first time I've been misled by a Fringe blurb), but the show was unexpectedly dark, and was all the better for it.

Alex (Alexandra Bassett) is given a book of Shakespeare plays for her birthday and falls in love with the play Hamlet. When Chloe (Savannah Clement) performs a Claudius monologue in class, Alex asks her to form a drama club. They decide to stage Hamlet with Alex in the title role and Chloe as everyone else. When Chloe decides she can't play Ophelia because she doesn't relate to her, they cast the shy new girl, conveniently named Ophelia (Lauren Weinberg). Up until this point, the play is very funny due to Patrick Shaw's ability to write realistic dialogue for 12-year-old girls who think they know a lot more than they do. Once the girls decide to never drop character, themes of betrayal and sexual awakening are introduced. Because pre-pubescent girls already deal with these emotions, the fact that they would get so caught up in a play like Hamlet makes so much sense that it's a wonder no one has thought of it before Shaw, but luckily he also has a capable director, Lillian Meredith, to execute his ideas. The actors are all very believable as teenage girls and Weinberg is the standout with her heartbreaking performance.

The show still needs a little work--some of the scenes felt a little muddled towards the end--but it already will have a future life (it's being staged in Chicago). Perhaps in the future it could be performed for all girls schools, which would be very compelling and educational.

Remaining performances are Tue 24 at 9, Wed 25 at 4:15, and Sat 28 at 7:15 at The Cherry Pit.

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