Student Production of Hamlet Meant to be Absurdist?

Student Production of Hamlet Meant to be Absurdist?

by Ian Lebowitz

Last Friday, The Midsummer Players put on a production of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet on the South Quad, which was, I think, an absurdist adaptation of the play.

The Bard’s timeless story of revenge and betrayal—a frequently adapted piece, with a broad spectrum of interpretations—was performed as a kind of meta-theatrical reflection on the nature of modern theater. Or something.

The Players, a student group well known around campus for the artistic liberties they take in their summertime productions, presented a version of Hamlet that turned the gaze of the audience back on themselves. The show presented its viewers with a warped image, like a carnival mirror. Or a puddle, maybe.

The production sought to highlight the mediations taking place on the stage. Yes? That’s why Hamlet’s father was in drag. I think. Maybe that was a comment on the 16th century’s restriction against female actors. Or maybe it was a satire of the sexism still present in contemporary theater. If there is sexism in contemporary theater. There is, right?

But then why were all of Ophelia’s lines spoken backwards? Maybe that was a parody of the constructedness of theater… or wait. Oh! Like how text is backwards when read in a mirror! But it’s also upside-down. Isn’t it? And what was the deal with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern kissing? Was that a gay rights thing? Maybe it was commentary. Or “commentary”.

Either way, the high point of the production was definitely when Laertes stabbed Hamlet with a rubber chicken while screaming in pig Latin. The scene comes at a pivotal moment in the play, when the water balloons, which surround the audience after Act II, begin to pop. The sequence symbolizes… something… I’m sure. It was very upsetting.

All in all, the play was a perplexing—if not entirely enjoyable—experience. I definitely recommend you go and see it next weekend, if for no other reason than because it is our duty and privilege as students to support creativity and art on campus. That is, art with a capital “A”, whatever that means.