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April 6, 2017
Review: How to Hamlet, or Hamleting Hamlet

Photo credit: Suzi Sadler.

Theater Reconstruction Ensemble’s (TRE) meta-theatrical play How to Hamlet, or Hamleting Hamlet is a mind trip to the inner workings of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Four actors are unexpectedly tasked with cobbling together a production of one of the most famous plays, and scramble to find meaning in its scenes.

Nathaniel Basch-Gould, Sam Corbin, Joshua William Gelb, and Emily Marro play the actors who begin, hilariously, as audience members. When they realize they are meant to perform rather than be spectators, they immediately launch into a stream-of-consciousness purging of everything they know about Hamlet, which isn’t much.

What follows is a dream/nightmare-scape in which the actors take turns in what appears to be possessed by the play’s ghost, the King. No sooner are they finished rambling through their lines incoherently than the ghost departs the body and the “spell” is broken. The ghost then possesses another actor and the cycle continues. The rest plays out like spurts of rehearsal for Hamlet, carried out in a nonlinear way.

How to Hamlet, written by TRE’s Artistic Director John Kurzynowski and Jon Riddleberger with some lines borrowed from the Bard, was conceived and directed by Kurzynowski. It has the spirit of improvisation and collaboration and, according to the website, TRE are indeed “committed to a collaborative approach to theater making.” They look like they’re having a great time going from reluctant performers to confident players. They do a fine job with the material, which has a tendency to be a bit uneven, bordering on slow.

Some of the technical aspects shine here. The sound design (Kate Marvin and Alex Hawthorn) includes some fun little nuggets, like a vaudeville-style glass shattering backstage. The lighting (Marika Kent) is masterfully crafted, creating an atmosphere of mystery and drama.

Though How to Hamlet is playing on well-tread territory, it manages to be truly unique. Not so much a reproduction of Hamlet, it pays homage while breaking down the play’s components -- a reconstruction if you will.

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Written by: Tami Shaloum
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