The Play-before-the-Play

Dan Donohue as Hamlet, photo by David Cooper

Dan Donohue as Hamlet, photo by David Cooper


Once again I urge readers who have not yet seen the production, but who are planning to, to stop reading now: I will be discussing some of the more surprising elements of the production and have no wish to spoil anyone’s delight in discovery. (For tickets, go here.)

First off, you know as soon as you enter the Bowmer theatre that you’re in for something a little different, for the audience members attending Bill Rauch’s production (many of whom are no doubt familiar with Hamlet and its famous “play-within-a-play”) are treated to something of a “play-before-the-play”: Young Hamlet (Dan Donohue), his eyes shaded by sunglasses, is already seated there on stage before the draped and candlelit casket of his dead father. The red lens of a security camera blinks down at him from the castle’s parapet above. The funeral, clearly, is over, everyone else has gone home, and Hamlet alone remains to mourn the late King, his father. Palace retainers quietly carry off the empty folding chairs, obviously wondering how long the guy in shades is going to keep sitting there, thus preventing them from finishing their jobs so they can go home, too.

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