The past two weekends in a row I have traveled to Providence to see two very different shows. Both kept my attention throughout, but for very different reasons.
The first was HAMLET. Yeah, HAMLET. It was fantastic. I have enjoyed the work of the Trinity Company whenever they have undertaken Shakespeare, and this was one of the best. Maybe it takes a repertory company to really dig in to a classic Shakespearean text and offer-up someting fresh? Whatever the reason, Trinity makes it work.
This HAMLET is performed in the dress of the Edwardian era, and effect that was, at first glance, disturbing, but soon grew to enhance some of the ordinaryness that otherwise gets lost in the men-in-tights approach. The most notable aspect of this setting was the choice to make Polonius the head of the servant household and a woman, and a rather earth-muffin woman at that. The two children of Polonius, Laertes and Ophelia, are therefore household servants as well. The play begins in a parlor and the first moments have young Hamlet stealing a passionate kiss from Ophelia in a darkened corner under the stairs just moments before the members of the court arrive.
This production manages to find the humor in the play alongside the tragedy. And they manage the humor without effort. It just rises from the text. We find humor because we are introduced to a world that seems very much like our own. We understand the world, find moments of comfort within it, and with that rcognition and ease, the humor is unstopped, and so we laugh. At least until the tragic elements unfold, and having laughed with these characters, we now grieve more fully at their loss.
The run of the HAMLET has been extended through March 5, so see it if you can.
Last weekend I was at Trinity taking in INDOOR/OUTDOOR -- a terminally cute play about an indoor cat who grows to yearn for the freedom of "Outside".
I could see this play easily becoming deadly if it were not handled by such an exquisite cast and supported by slick technical visuals and fast fast fast transitions. I'm happy to report that all of these elements were in place for the Trinity production of this play.
Fast moving and funny, this silly little furball of a play kept me rollicking along side it. Full of laughs and visual surprises, the non-stop enthusiasm of the cast kept the magic balloon of daffy theater aloft. I was even surprised by the emotional tug the final moments of the play had on me.
The set really helped give the play a boost. The entire theatrical procenium, floor, furniture, and landscape were carpeted with a yellow fuzzy covering. The set-pieces were suspened from bright yellow ropes, that when not in service dangled like giant cat toys over the action. A warm, fuzzy lanscape for a warm, fuzzy play.
Not that I'd want to see a lot of this kind of froth coming from Trinity -- but once every couple of years it's good just to have some warm fuzzy fun.
INDOOR/OUTDOOR just opened last weekend and will play March.