REVIEW: To See or Not to See

The Rude Mechanicals’ creative interpretation of the Shakespeare classic, Hamlet, was refreshing. It was done at the beautiful Mendelssohn Theatre, where the actors did not even need microphones. I have never seen a Shakespeare play performed live and I am glad to say that it was a wonderful experience.

The play was set to the 1960s-based show, Mad Men, and it was expressed the importance of sharp suits for men and elegant dresses for women. This also reflected the uptight personalities of some of the characters in Hamlet, such as Claudius (Hamlet’s uncle and stepfather) and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (Hamlet’s deceiving school friends). I was a bit skeptical of the thought of Hamlet in a totally different era and location, but the interpretation was perfect.

The sounds the play was set to were interesting too because there were certain themes for different characters, like the ghost of Hamlet’s father. The set was brilliant as well because it really captured the essence of a big city and it was versatile for the needs of each scene. The director’s note explains the concept of her idea very well, mentioning that most of the characters in Hamlet are held to certain standards and they try to follow the norms and that is why it was possible to relate the play to Mad Men, a show where the characters seem perfect and successful to society, but are crumbling within. The character Hamlet was portrayed a bit differently than my impression of him from reading the play. In the Mad Men setting, he seemed suave and confident, whereas I always thought of him as timid and a bit awkward in some regards. However, Hamlet’s lines in the play have a very confident air since he often goes against the status quo and is not afraid to wittily insult characters that do not understand his veiled criticisms. In Shakespeare’s play, Ophelia, who could be classified as Hamlet’s love interest, is used as a tool for those concerned with Hamlet to observe his behaviors. Therefore, the Mad Men version of Ophelia was great because women were seen as objects in the setting of the show, but they still play vital roles in the plot of the story. So, although Ophelia was used by Polonius, Claudius, and Gertrude, she was also necessary to unravel the mysteries of Hamlet’s emotions. Her deterioration over the course of the play was wonderfully portrayed by the actress (Jacqueline Toboni). The actor who played Hamlet (Kris Reilly) was not afraid to use his body to capture the confidence and strangeness of Hamlet and so he did a great job doing actions that could make other players seem uncomfortable. Overall, the idea was solid and the play turned out very well. This is a must see if you are a fan of Shakespeare or want to see the interesting concept of Mad Men versus Hamlet.