Hamlet, the Melancholy Dame

An all-female adaptation of Hamlet

This all-female adaptation of Hamlet, coming after a season of Hamlets, is like a big, overcooked omelet arriving at your table after a whole morning of not-quite-satisfying omelets. The show starts in Act 5, with Hamlet's febrile death speech, then flashes back to Act 1, with Horatio and Fernando and the Ghost. What should be a heated feminist deconstruction becomes a long recapitulation of the entire play, an earnest attempt to do Hamlet with certain radical edits. Director Erin Merritt and the Woman's Will company have cut the "To be or not to be" monologue but kept in just about every unflattering reference to females ("Frailty thy name is woman," "Fortune's a strumpet," etc.), perhaps to emphasize Hamlet's (and our) sexist society, etc. etc. The result is wishy-washy. It's refreshing not to know how the show will end, and a few scenes, like the gravedigger's, have a fine, moody quality. But it fails as Hamlet and never becomes anything else. Ellen Brooks turns in the one solid performance as Claudius. Gillian Chadsey looks handsome and sullen as the melancholy prince, but she forces too many lines. Gertrude has been reduced to a Barbie doll by Mary Saudargas; Rocelyn Halili is remarkably false as Horatio; Jubileth Moore (no relation) sounds constipated as the Ghost. "Thou com'st in such a questionable shape," Hamlet says to her, in perhaps the most relevant line of the whole production.


Through Nov. 18. Admission is $10-18 (sliding scale, cash only); call 567-1758 or visit www.womanswill.org to purchase tickets.
Phoenix II Theater, 655 Geary (between Jones and Leavenworth), S.F.

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