Blame it on the Unquiet Ducks: “Hamlet”

Photo via Praxis Stage on Facebook: Elena Toppo, Eric McGowan, Joan Raube-Wilson; not dead yet.

Presented by Praxis Stage 
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Kim Carrel
Dramaturgy by Michael Anderson
Fight choreography by Kim Carrell

Jul 6 – Jul 14, 2019
Danehy Park
99 Sherman St.
Cambridge, MA 02140

Jul 18 – Jul 28, 2019
Longfellow Park 
Cambridge, MA 02138
Praxis Stage on Facebook
Critique by Kitty Drexel

Murther [ mur-th er ] – noun, verb (used with or without object) Obsolete:

  1. Murder. 

 – From Dictionary.com

(Cambridge, MA) I don’t prefer productions performed out of doors. The novelty has never appealed to me. I’ve only acted in one Shakespeare in the Park production and, while grateful for the experience, I wouldn’t do it agin. Actors must complete with offstage noise, there’s the weather, and, at dusk, there are the MOSQUITOS. Nature in all its splendor cannot compare to the creature comforts offered by the great indoors. That being said, Praxis Stage’s Hamlet is fun.

A summary of Hamlet is provided by Encyclopedia Britanica (contains spoilers). Unlike many, many Hamlets before, Praxis’ interpretation doesn’t paint Hamlet (Eric McGowan) the man as a wounded emo-hero torn apart by his circumstances. Praxis takes a more feminist approach by establishing Hamlet as a man-child culpable for his abusive actions: he’s rash and impulsive; a murderer and a misogynist. 

The dramaturgical notes by Michael Anderson delve into this a-romantic interpretation with some detail. In what shouldn’t be a shocking twist, Anderson’s program booklet matches Praxis’ production*. We know why director Kim Carrel and the cast made their choices. We might not agree with them but we’re given context to understand. This is also nice. Additionally, the back of the program has a Mexican sugar skull that anyone with art supplies can color in. 

The chewiest performances worked the best. Danehy Park is wide and caters to families and their animals. Performers that chewed the scenes fought distractions and won. McGowan got up close and personal with his audience members. Evan Crocker as Horacio provided alternative dialogue as he chased Hamlet across the green. It garnered more than a few chuckles. It was easy to hear Michael Anderson over the din of whining Danes. The more subtle performances couldn’t contend with distractions like dog barks and scampering children.

Audience members who don’t arrive early are forced to sit near the marshy areas to the sides of the stage’s boundaries. The farther one is from the stage, the harder it is to hear the actors with soft voices. Environmental noise from screaming kids and barking dogs fills the air. At 7:25 p.m. on Saturday, a park fountain splashed on. To be fair, the actors are working hard to barely be heard. There was nothing we could do but wait it out. It’s our fault for not getting to the park earlier.  

Hamlet in the park won’t be a deep exploration of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays for the majority of attendees. It might for an early-bird sitting front and center. The Black, Asian, white, young, old, dog and bird audience members attending on Saturday night were mostly looking for a good time. They found it. With a picnic dinner, a blanket and some heavy-duty, deet bug spray, Hamlet will be a fun excursion for nearly everyone.  

Hamlet continues Jul 18 – Jul 28, 2019 in Longfellow Park, Cambridge. The production is free and open to the public.  

* It’s too often that a director’s note and the corresponding dramaturgy don’t match up- leading one to wonder if the director and the dramaturg worked on the same production. Praxis’ Hamlet doesn’t exhibit this disagreement.

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