Monday, April 24, 2006

Hamlet and Jesus Christ Superstar (CBC's Theater Excursions)

Hamlet at the Guthrie Theater
There's a lot of buzz about this production in town. It's the last play to be performed at the current Guthrie location (it was also the first in 1963). Attending the play felt like an event (attending were Sadie and myself).

We scored beautiful seats in the rush line. $15 each for tickets listed at $45 in the third row on the side of the stage. The action was right before our eyes.

The set was awesome. I never expect a set to be much, and then I'm always awed by what they are capable of doing. The costumes, too, were spectacular. The play was set in a World War I era motif. It worked.

The first act (taking us partway through Shakespeare's 3rd act) dragged. This was not a result of the production, but the play. There's a lot of necessary plot advancement early on (and given my familiarity with this play, that's a little tedious for me), and a lot of soliloquies that are more enjoyable to read than to listen to.

The second act picked up at a high point of intensity and action, however. There were some fine acting performances throughout the performance, particularly Matthew Greer as Claudius (he was every bit the ambitious and aggravated king) and Peter Michael Goetz as Polonius (he was comic without being ridiculous, a difficult task to pull off on the stage).

The play was performed as close to uncut as I can imagine, and took over 3 hours.

The ending was spectacular, and taught me a valuable lesson about drama and interpretation. In the end, all the main characters are dead and Fortinbras, a Norwegian royal, marches in to become king of Denmark. When I teach the play, I teach this as a good thing: all the corruption, sickness, and rottenness must be purged from Denmark in a great bloodletting, and a clean, new prince comes in to restore Denmark to goodness and give it health.

This was not the interpretation presented in the Guthrie production. Fortinbras, decked out in military fatigues and acting like a general, marches into Elsinore with his soldiers among bombs falling. He goes to the top of the balcony, preening in his ambitious glory, and raises his arms as the background turns glowing red and the people shout "Long live the king!" Instead of cleaning things up, the impression is that the sickness and ambition and power of the monarchy will continue, on and on and on...

Jesus Christ Superstar at Hamline
There were general admission tickets, and we were on the waiting list, so we figured to get bad and separate seats (attending were Sadie, Jon, Vanessa, and myself). However, for some reason, the first row was virtually empty. We ended up sitting center stage in the very first row. For the second night in a row, all the action happened right before us.

The production was excellent. The set quality and creativity were better than I expected.

Judas and Jesus were excellent singers. This is particularly important with Judas, who really has to belt out some incredible songs. The actor played Judas with the necessary intensity to pull that part off, and a great singing voice to make the songs just leap out.

My one disappointment was "Herod's Song." Conceptually, it worked, but musically, it didn't.

The rock opera buzzed by in about an hour and a half, and there is no downtime as you move from song to song to song.

All in all, a great college production. The music is wonderful, the actors were well-cast and seemed to be inspired by their roles. I loved the experience of seeing this show performed.

Afterward, Sadie, Jon, Vanessa, and myself workshopped our own musical about the Chupacabre.

1 comment:

  1. I got with one of those girls in the cast of JC Superstar once. Just so you know.