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Women Doing Hamlet

Women Doing Hamlet

By William Missouri Downs

Directed by David McElroy

Starring Chloe McElroy

Southern Winds Theatre

Presenting at The Venue, Orlando FL </strong>

Can a girl play “Hamlet”? It happens more often than you might guess; Sarah Bernhardt and Frances de la Tour have done it, so there. But male or female this is a notoriously difficult role; over a thousand lines of dialog, unclear motivation, and all those weird Elizabethan words make this a Sisyphean task. Young Jessica (McElroy) auditioned for Ophelia but got Hammy instead; now everyone is telling her she’s either too young or too blonde or something. Why she doesn’t just sit down the director and ask him “why?” is unclear, but between lectures from a haughty English professor (Courtney Bahr), her phone obsessed teen daughter (Danielle Miller) and a pompous acting coach (Marylin McGinnis) she’s whipsawed from joy to despair every French scene or so. Things get more complicated when she’s offered a renewal of a daytime TV contract and we achieve the ultimate actor’s dilemmas: Take the money and buy a mansion, or struggle on in unpaid community theater feeling abused by everyone. I know what I would do.

Production values are bare bones but the show is gripping; if nothing else you’ll pick up a few back story bits on Hammy and the entire Elizabethan theater experience. Ms. McElroy’s Hamlet seems breezy and joyous when the role seems to call for brooding despair; and as to the meta-ness of a girl cast into a confused female role she’s much better; her blonde hair and swinging demeanor acts as a stalking-horse for her own internal angst. Ms. McGinnis’ coaching plays off of Jessica very nicely; classes are $50 and hour for Level 1 (“I’ll build you up.”) and $100 for Level 2 (“I’ll tell you the truth”) but what is needed here would be the $150 Level 3 (“I’ll play it FOR you”). The other supports are entertaining as well: the Professor in the ragamuffin coat brings back English lit bombast and Ms. Miller’s snotty teen brought the modern world right smack dab in the middle of the stage; “these kids are all going to hell!” arguments that have enliven family dinners for centuries. Overall fun show, and best enjoyed by those who have a few Hamlets under their own belt.

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