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Hamlet in Bed
It's a suitable vision for an avant garde ptroduction of Hamlet considering that here is a lot at stake when the plot of a play is both incredible and incredulous. However, imagine the possibilities when a thirty-nine year old orphan now a Shakespearean actor decides to direct a production of Hamlet in which he will be playing the title role and has cast an actress whom he believes to be his real birth mother as Queen Gertrude. The gifted Michael Lawrence and Annette O'Toole under the direction of Lisa Peterson make this close to preposterous conceit worth exploring simply for its dramatic potential.
Lawrence, who doubles as playwright and the actor Michael, has previously been a formidable presence on the stage either as a performer and adapter. The craggily good-looking Lawrence has not assigned any suggestion of melancholia to Shakespeare's Dane. Instead Michael's Hamlet displays a renewed passion for life as well as a new slant on things, particularly the relationship with his mother.
His equal in externalizing angst in this strange as strange can be two-hander, O'Toole, is both haunting and pathetic as the down and out Anna —a woman who not only gave up a promising stage career whilst playing (of all roles) Ophelia, but simply gave up. A menial office day-worker and barfly at night, the suddenly resurrected Anna, proves to Michael that she still has what it takes.
What Anna doesn't know is that Michael has read, with the help of an antiquarian a journal that had been tossed away by an actress who was playing in a Hamlet production exactly thirty nine years ago, the year of Michael's birth. The journal reveals that she gave up her baby for adoption when the father, who was playing Hamlet committed suicide. Now the desperate and obsessed Michael has found that actress and convinced her to play Gertrude. The big question this raises: does he reveal this to her and if so, when, and how will it affect them and the production.
A mixture of relevatory monologues and confrontational scenes bring an immediate relevance to the famous "closet scene" to which Michael's interpretation presumably brings new insights. This is what gives this play its Hamlet Complex motivation and theme but makes for a curious and cagey show-piece. Whether it is advisable to get out of bed and out to the theater to see it is yet perhaps another thing to contemplate.
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