Friday, June 14, 2013

Shakespeare and Steampunk

by Jenni Morin

Imagine Hamlet condensed to 90 minutes, a live Cliffs Notes, with the same Shakespearean integrity of the original tragedy of the Danish prince. Jump-Start Performance Co. and Classic Theatre of San Antonio have joined forces to present their own adaptation of Shakespeare’s most popular drama, Method & Madness: Hamlet 2013, opening Friday, June 14 for two weekends at the Sterling Houston Theater in the Blue Star Art Complex.

The approach to the title role, split between Billy Munoz and Linda Ford but acting as one person, is worth the ticket price alone. By breaking up one of the most famous soliloquies in dramatic literature, Munoz and Ford allow Hamlet to have a true conversation with himself, complete with wit and quips, questions, revelations and a subtle humor no longer lost to insanity. Their rendition of “To be, or not to be” is enlightening and offers a brand new perspective with renewed and deepened understanding.

Unfortunately, the combined Hamlet performance was less a split personality than that of others sharing the stage. In keeping the Elizabethan tongue, the risk is always run that some actors tangle words and are off in their inflection, causing the subtext to be lost. Getting lost in the language causes some scenes to be rather laborious. But the shortcomings of some novice and some overly passionate actors should not deter anyone from catching other standout performances from the cast.

True to the adaptation’s title, the collaboration found the method in the madness. Paired perfectly with a sprinkling of Steampunk detailing, the cogs and gears of the mind are certainly turning. Billy Munoz’s lighting and Rick Malone’s sound reflect the amalgamation of vintage classic and modern experimentation. The creative application of these two elements take advantage of technically ripe moments like Ophelia’s funeral and the manifestations of the slain king’s apparition. Robert Rehm’s king ghost brings home the eerie visitation complete with a fully Steampunked out motorized apparatus—truly a great addition to the show.

For a bit of comedic relief, Kitty Williams presents Osric and the Gravedigger, while Pamela Dean Kenny delivers a somber epilogue as Horatio. Christie Beckham dutifully portrays Ophelia. Together with Hamlet in twain, these performances paid homage to the Shakespearean essence.

Co-directors Diane Malone and S.T. Shimi stayed true to the tale, while their integration of the Steampunk design and introduction of a Greek-style chorus brought new life to the script. With great design and attention to detail, the show stays loyal to the Classic’s repertory, and adds to it an unexpected and innovative approach from Jump-Start. In truth, this adaption brings new meaning to the line, “The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.” Shakespeare, welcome to 2013.

Method & Madness: Hamlet 2013 will run at The Sterling Houston Theatre at Jump-Start through June 23, 2013 with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays with a pay-what-you-can performance on Friday, June 21. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

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