Wonderous Strange: The Hamlet Project

HamletProjectIt should come as no surprise that I’m not the only one engaged in an ambitious Hamlet-themed project. But now that I see what this theatre group in Chicago is up to, I feel as if I missed the boat, and perhaps my project should have involved a lot more drinking.

Mind you, it’s hard to figure out what The Hamlet Project is really all about. Billed as a “less-than-two-hour drinking game version of Hamlet,” the show opened in LA in January 2013, and has had a number of “rounds” or remounts, changing up the cast each time. Further info is scarce: the website promises rules, ribaldry, and lots of drinking. Presumably, the drinks are not included in the $10 ticket.

When the show toured to New York City in August 2013, the New York Times reviewed it, but c’mon. Either the critic exempts themselves from the drinking game, in which case they’re missing the whole point, or else (as in Ken Jaworowski’s case) they keep up with the groundlings, shot for shot…in which case, the review ends up rather vague and incoherent.

Jaworowski does volunteer a few telling details: “The text remains fairly intact, with some droll additions: Laertes returns to Yale rather than France; Hamlet is banished to New Jersey, not England; a version of beer pong replaces the sword fight.” Hmm. Maybe after five beers, that would be funny…?

The show’s mission statement (again, from the company’s website) is: “to explore the story of Hamlet in an infinite number of ways while still making it as accessible to an audience as Shakespeare had intended (or at least as far as we know).” That sounds ambitious, and exciting. But I have a hard time reconciling that with beer pong.

The tragedy is, I love beer almost as much as I love Shakespeare. I’ve just never had good experiences combining the two. Perhaps, if I found myself within a pint’s throw of The Hamlet Project, I’d let them prove me wrong.

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