After watching the play Hamlet II this weekend at the Lowry Lab in St. Paul, may I suggest a change of name for the company that produced it? Rather than People Sittin’ Around Doin’ Theatre, perhaps a more apt name would be People With a Huge Amount of Energy and Commitment to Emerging Artists Jumping Around Stage Doin’ Theatre. Of course, that may be a bit long for a marquee.
Hamlet II, presented by People Sittin’ Around Doin’ Theatre through April 27 at the Lowry Lab, 350 St. Peter Street, St. Paul. For information and tickets ($16, some performances pay-what-you can), see psadt.com.
Hamlet II, written by Sam Bodrick and produced by PSDAT as the first piece in the company’s “non-new works” series, satirizes (or is that parodies?) the story of the eponymous Danish prince. The author expands on the subtext hidden just below the surface, then puts it before a funhouse mirror so that each character’s quirks become huge and a bit twisted. Shakespeare’s language is made contemporary as well. If you were ever unsure of what the Bard was getting at, this is the play to see. Well, except for the happy ending—that’s not in the original.
“We chose this show because we knew that there are a lot of people who enjoy Shakespeare, but also those who are not real thrilled by Shakespeare,” said Ron Kerr Jr., PSADT’s managing director. “So we thought, what better way to draw in both sides then to do a Shakespeare show that has a comic twist?”
If you were ever unsure of what the Bard was getting at, this is the play to see.
Humor can be tough to get right, though. An audience’s sense of humor is a moving target, and over the course of Hamlet II the actors hit as many of their comic targets as they miss. However, in the end, the company is obviously having a good time and this energy sustains them through some of the more bufoonish sight gags and one-liners. (Though this Elsinor is more New York City than Denmark, the accents that some of the cast sported just didn’t work.) A little slow to get going, the play picks up speed as it moves along. The actors seemed to warm into their roles, embracing the comedy wholeheartedly. Particularly strong were Kathy Lindmeyer as Queen Gertrude, Richard Woods as Laertis (and Francisco), and Kerr himself, doing a very fun and acrobatic stint onstage with Clint Heino as Rosencrantz and Guldenstern.
Christina Akers’s sure-handed directing kept the actors streaming on- and off-stage at a good clip. Asymmetrical staging—as, for example, two actors spoke on one side while others engaged in business elsewhere—also helped keep the energy up. With occasional hooting, hollering, and catcalls from cast members offstage, it all came together to keep the audience pleasantly unsure of what to expect next.
In the future, PSADT plans to do more fundraising, so they can continue producing new works by local artists. When I asked Kerr why PSADT began producing work like Hamlet II, he explained that it was exciting to work on a piece that allowed the actors and director to focus more on character and blocking, rather than the technical aspects of production. “There are so many great pieces out there. Once per year we want to commit to doing a non-new work series. Next spring we are doing Angels in America.”
Christopher Pommier is a citizen journalist in Minneapolis. He also writes poetry and works as an immigration case manager at a small downtown law firm.