Hamlet: Reframed

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Courtesy Capital Fringe Festival
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Editorial Review

Fringe Festival 2011: ‘Hamlet: Reframed’

By Fiona Zublin
Tuesday, July 12, 2011

If you want to do “Hamlet” at the Fringe, you need to have a new idea — not only because Fringe shows are supposed to be new and different, but because Hamlet is a million hours long and nobody is going to sit through that in an un-air-conditioned black-box theater. Grain of Sand Theatre Company’s concept in “Hamlet: Reframed” is brutal: Take out all the introspection.

Instead of zeroing in on Hamlet’s soliloquies and cutting out all the international intrigue — how many productions totally ignore the fact that a Norwegian prince swoops in at the end and takes over Denmark? — “Hamlet: Reframed” slashes out Hamlet’s soul-searching, his encounters with the ghost, everything that gives you a window into his thought processes, in favor of highlighting the confusion the rest of the court feels about his sudden behavioral shift. And while most of us have at some point thought, “Oh, shut up already,” at Hamlet’s endless waffling over the mysteries of existence, it turns out that without all the navel-gazing, “Hamlet” isn’t all that interesting. Sure, Hamlet’s kind of a trigger-happy maniac, but that’s no revelation. He’s a trigger-happy maniac in the original, too.

Not to suggest that Hamlet is the only worthwhile character in “Hamlet,” but the actors in “Hamlet: Reframed” never offer any inner life or even animation to their characters, so what is the point of highlighting them? The play goes for a vaguely modern vibe (pistols instead of swords; Ophelia’s costume looks as if it came from Urban Outfitters), but there’s no clear reason for this, and Hamlet continues to be the most interesting character purely by virtue of Sam Rabinovitz’s wild-eyed performance as the prince of Denmark. “Hamlet” is all about sex, revenge and death, so where did the passion go?