Ridiculous. Unexpected. Hilarious. These are just a few of the words that can be applied to the PASB Thespians recent performance of The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, a rather grim and depressing play when not in the hands of Susan Cavalcanti, Geraldo Tavarez, and Rubén López. Combining modern colloquialism with Shakespearean register, stage fright with audience participation, this rendition of Hamlet is a thoroughly entertaining spoof of the most famous work of theater in the English language.
Performing Hamlet with only three actors is no easy task, especially when one decides to make an unscheduled trip to the airport (Geraldo). Alas, sacrifices must be made in the pursuit of art, and after a musical number by Anabela Gomez and Leo Machado and some physical coercion, all three actors get down to business with a rapid fire rendition of the highlights from the first few scenes, followed by a rather insightful psychological analysis of Ophelia, Hamlet’s former girlfriend, that includes audience participation. From there, events spin out of control, leading to the play within the play, Hamlet crying over Yorick’s bleached skull, and everyone dying. As if these events aren’t hectic enough, our actors decide to redo the play multiple times, delivering it faster and faster until they finally perform it backwards. Yes, backwards.
Despite the utter chaos that is the stage, and the confounding mess that is the plot (purposefully crafted, no doubt), the PASB Thespians do not fail to entertain. Perhaps the most delightful part of the play is the blend of modern colloquialism and Shakespeare’s poetry. Lines like “The play’s the thing / Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king” are frequently interrupted by expressions such as “let’s make out.” This flippant treatment of Shakespeare’s most treasured eloquence is absolutely delightful: Hamlet may be a masterpiece, but Shakespeare might have benefited from a word limit for his final draft.
Equally compelling are the interactions with the audience, whose expectations are consistently defied. Geraldo begins the play by fleeing to the airport. Rubén decides to perform the play backwards. Susan pontificates after receiving a sword blade through the heart. What could be more unexpected? Of course, at one point our actors even enlist audience members to conduct a psychoanalysis of Ophelia’s state of mind after Hamlet commands her to “get thee to a nunnery,” the highlight of which is the last row screaming “Cut the crap Hamlet! My biological clock is ticking, and I want babies now!”
All in all, the PASB Thespians rendition of Hamlet is a must see that surpasses any expectations for a high school drama group. The actors know their lines perfectly: stumbles are rare and awkward pauses non existent. The props, although simple, augment the ridiculous tone of the performance. With the resources they had available, we could not ask Susan, Rubén, and Geraldo to do any better. But for those still doubtful, traumatized by the actual Hamlet’s length, never fear, for this version lasts a mere 60 minutes, Pyramus and Thisbe included.