Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hamlet does the Monster Mash(up)

Performance: Living dead in Denmark
Location:
The Gona Theatre at Georgetown University’s Davis Performing Arts Center (near the O st gate).
Company: Rorschach Theatre
Metro Stops: Foggy Bottom or take the Circulator to Georgetown from Farragut North or McPehearson Square
Genre
: Shakespeare Monster Mash-up
Cost
: Student tickets for $13.50, Goldstar tickets $11.50
Through: 8/23 (final week)
Rating
: 4/5 Starving Artists (but see below)

Can you enjoy something throughly and still think it is stupid? Living in Dead in Denmark challenges us to just such a monumental task. It is at once pleasant and pointless, mindless and marvelous.

The play bills itself as Shakespeare with zombies. And how can any play with that description be bad? And on this note, it does not disappoint. It is a raucous, gory, action-packed orgy of the undead, quippy one-liners and the Bard's most notable characters. There is an abundance (perhaps an overabundance) of really excellent stage combat, choreographed by the play's director Casey Kaleba.

I'm really into the burgeoning genre that is the monster mash-up (a la Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). So, if this is what you were looking for, LDID will deliver in spades. And this is what I wanted, so I got exactly what I had bargained for, if not anything more. So, in this regard, if I did not think much about the show, I liked it very much.

But then I did think about it, which may have been a mistake. I'm not sure I understood it. I don't know why the zombie killers happened to be Shakespeare's characters. The portrayal of these well-known personalities (Hamlet, Ophelia, Juliet, Lady Macbeth, etc.) was not, in any specifically noticeable ways, consistent with the original text. Juliet had been transformed from a sheepish teen to brainiac ninja. Hamlet had become an idealistic romantic, without any of his original depth. So in this way, they were really just new characters who happened to share names with their Elizabethan forebears. A play like this could have shed light in one of two ways. The use of the classic characters could have taught us something new about the original text, or it could shed some unique light on the new subject matter. But LDID was not illuminating in either way. It seems that there was a creative meeting where someone thought it would be cool to have Hamlet fight zombies (and it was) but nobody really fleshed it out (pun intended) much further than that. And so, on the surface, the play glittered, but these still waters did not run particularly deep.

So what score does a reviewer give a show like this? Should I rate it by how much I enjoyed it (4 Starving Artists)? Should I rate it on how good it was (2.5 Starving Artists)? Do I average these scores (3.25 SA's) or give it both? I guess, as usual, I will err on the side of the positive. I suspect many of you will enjoy this show, as much as I did. And if that's all you're looking for, I think this play will really hit the spot. Just don't plan to think too much. You'll be fine.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A very quick hit

One of my favorite singers is in town to night. Jenny Owen Youngs. Check her out at Iota in Arlington if you get a chance.

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