Saturday, September 16, 2023


What do you get if you stir together abortion rights, cancel culture, and Hamlet, throw in hints of Becket and Brecht, and add sharp writing, excellent acting, and fabulous make-up and costumes? The impressive alt-Hamlet, beautifully written and directed by Suzanne Willett, which is at the Players Theatre on MacDougal St through September 24th.

It's a heady mix, often funny, always insightful, frequently confusing, sometimes stunning. (It's also a little flabby, being maybe 15 minutes too long, but, oh, well.) It is very hard to describe!

Davon Howard, Yuliya Donovan
Photo: Find the Light

Alessandro Caronna
Photo: Find the Light

Here's what the website says:

Two Berkeley sisters come to realize the economics of being a woman.

A ghost, Gloria B.--the mother of Susan and Bella--tells her daughters to avenge her murder by uncovering their father’s guilt. Susan, a newly converted economics major, feigns madness by obsessively interpreting events through economics. Her sister, Bella, does the same via psychology. As the sisters gradually uncover the depth of their father’s duplicity, they spiral down into a cancel culture contest with deadly consequences. It’s a comedy.

But this description leaves out so, so much. More useful is this note from the script: "This is a carnivalesque/grotesque style of performance. Nothing should be sacred." The father is a demented ring master, his new wife a giant spider. Pregnancy is represented by balloons, abortion by excruciating popping thereof. One character is obsessed with representation via social media. And that still leaves out so much.

Leah Barker, Miranda Renée
Photo: Find the Light

Emily Ann Banks
Photo: Find the Light

Here's the thing: this is a rich and fascinating theatrical experience that doesn't feel required to explain itself and that dares to teeter over into too-too-much-ness. Watching it, I vacillated between thinking that this was Off-Off-Broadway pretentiousness and being sure it was brilliant. I was sometimes bored. I was frequently thrilled. There is great skill here, and great commitment. 

I left astonished yet again at the amazing things one can see in a nondescript theatre in a nondescript building, put together by people who give their time and effort and intelligence and talent for little outer reward (but, I hope, great inner reward). It's an incredible accomplishment.

Wendy Caster

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