Friday, July 19, 2019

Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth

Tom Stoppard's Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth plays with language and slapstick, presents fascinating mini-versions of two of Shakespeare's masterpieces, vividly depicts the importance of theatre under repressive government, and messes with your brain. It is both fun and important. In other words, it's Tom Stoppard.

Lucy Van Atta, Peter Schmitz,
Christo Grabowski, Connor Wright
Dogg's Hamlet
photo: Stan Barouh

Dogg's Hamlet takes place at public school (in English parlance) or a private school (in American). The students are rehearsing Hamlet. They speak a strange language that makes no sense until it starts making sense. The highly-truncated version of Hamlet presented is an excellent reminder that Shakespeare pretty much invented idiomatic English. (To thine own self be true. Shuffle off this mortal coil. There's the rub. Though this be madness, yet there is method in't. The lady doth protest too much. I must be cruel only to be kind. The play's the thing. Neither a borrower nor a lender be. I am sick at heart. This too shall pass. Brevity is the soul of wit.) Dogg's Hamlet is a fabulous mental workout.

Cahoot's Macbeth takes place in an LRT, or Living Room Theatre, in 1970s Czechoslovakia. LRTs were developed when the government cracked down on theatre, forbidding public performances and giving the artists jobs as janitors, clerks, and the like. Macbeth is interrupted by a government inspector who is snide, mean, all-knowing, and frightening. (And, since Cahoot's Macbeth is by Stoppard, she is also funny.)

As presented by the invaluable PTP/NYC and directed by the superb Cheryl Faraone, Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth serves a one-two punch of theatre, full of humor, meaning, provocation, and pathos. (It is running in repertory with Havel: The Passion of Thought which includes works by Harold Pinter, Václav  Havel, and Samuel Beckett. Havel is, in one way or another, the heart of all of these works.)

The cast (Matthew Ball, Denise Cormier, Olivia Christie, Tara Giordano, Christo Grabowski, Will Koch, Emily Ma, Christopher Marshall, Katie Marshall, Madeleine Russell, Peter B. Schmitz, Lior Selve, Lucy Van Atta, Zach Varicchione, Connor Wright) is top-notch, as are the production values (Mark Evancho, set; Rebecca Lafon, costumes, Cahoot’s Macbeth; Ellery Rhodes, sound; Chris Romagnoli, costumes, Dogg's Hamlet; Hallie Zieselman, lighting).

I am so grateful to PTP/NYC for their commitment to meaningful theatre and high standards. I try to see every show they put on. (And I sure would like to see Cheryl Faraone's Cloud Nine. Hint. Hint.)

Wendy Caster
(press ticket, third row)

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