This ‘Hamlet’ mixes up genders, timelines
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media June 22, 2012 2:22PM
♦ June 22-July 15
♦ 2901 W. Main St., St. Charles
♦ Tickets, $10-$5
♦ (630) 853-8815
Updated: June 23, 2012 3:40PM
Naperville’s Storefront Shakespeare is taking one the Bard’s most popular (and difficult) plays and giving it a modern twist.
They will perform “Hamlet” at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday June 22 to July 15 at a storefront location on Main Street in St. Charles. There will also be an 8 p.m. June 28 performance.
Nora Manca, president, founder and artistic director of Storefront Shakespeare, decided for this production of “Hamlet” to try non-gender biased casting: all roles were open to all genders. The best person for the part would get the role.
“Many talented people auditioned and choosing a Hamlet was a difficult discussion, but in the end 19-year-old Nicole Bartodziej was the best fit for our production,” she said via email.
Another young woman, Ashtyn Foster, is “bringing a wonderful new energy” to her roles of Laertes/Guildenstern, she said.
“Her Guildenstern is paired with the brilliant Colleen Lynch, who plays Rosencrantz as a sympathetic character, bringing new depth to the role,” she said. “My Fortenbrass is also a woman, Catherine Oliven.”
Manca is using the classic Shakespeare text, but with some cuts to bring it down to around three hours, she said. Plus, she is using only 10 actors with some of the roles doubled up.
Storefront Shakespeare gives Shakespeare’s classic plays a modern, urban touch, and are staged with the audience right in the middle of the action. This production of “Hamlet,” for example, is set 10 years in the future.
It’s the story of a girl named Hamlet, whose father was murdered by his own brother, her uncle Claudius (Allan Kortas). But not before Old Hamlet killed Fortenbrass’ father when Old Hamlet conquered Denmark (Fortenbrass’s father’s kingdom). Fortenbrass tried raising an army to take back Denmark, Manca said, but that didn’t work. Her new plan, she said, is to strike at the new king of Denmark from within and leave the court in chaos.
So Fortenbrass, having heard a rumor about the method of the old king’s death, rigs up an old projector and fools Young Hamlet into thinking that her father is calling to her from the grave, asking for vengeance.
“Young Hamlet, still mourning her father’s untimely death, struggles with her ambitions, loves and eventually even her sanity after being called on to avenge her father’s foul and unnatural murder,” Manca said.
There are a few men in the show: Allan Kortas as Claudius, Eric Gronkiewicz as Horatio (lending a romantic twist to the Hamlet-Horatio dynamic), Mark Oyos as the Gravedigger, and Bruce Worthel as Polonius.
Manca said she has taken out the “black and black morality” of the original play and “repainted it as a world of gray.”
“It’s a network of old alliances, spurned affections, honest intentions and conflicting ambitions against the backdrop of a possibly cruel and possibly heartless perennially warring king Hamlet and the battle his memory fights even in death,” she said. “No character is beyond redemption, even at their worst, but their failures are human failures and not just tragic faults or an excess of cartoon villainy.”