Bridget is playing Laertes at “the other ASC,” so I decided to find a time to come see it, meet people in Atlanta, and check out the theater. Inspired by Shakespeareances, I have been trying to see more theater outside of universities. So much Shakespeare is happening all over the country, and I want to see what people are doing.
The Tavern is an incredibly fun venue. It’s a dinner theater, and the design is very Tudor-y. Many of the patrons return regularly. One of them saw me sitting on my own and invited me to join his table. He told me that he comes to see whatever is playing every Thursday, and has been doing this for five years. The other people at the table see every show. Their volunteer base is incredible. Volunteers were everywhere, ushering, clearing tables, offering directions to the bathroom. This is a level of engagement that any theater would kill for.
I always want to do things that make my shows feel more like a party (shows that have started with a party as part of the action include Antony and Cleopatra, Richard III, JB,probably others) so the atmosphere was downright inspiring.
The show was interesting. Hamlet is one of those plays that have a lot of right choices–plenty of options for an actor to work with. I’ve seen so many very different Hamlets; I think the best thing about the script is its elasticity that way, its space for choices. This was by far the most manic and funny one I’ve seen. Lee Osorio threw a ton of energy at the role and drove it hard. He seemed to have a perspective of being a little outside of the situation, as if Hamlet is looking at what’s happening and saying, “Can you believe this nonsense?” and then laughing maniacally at it.
The strongest, most textually-grounded performances were from Olivia Dawson as Gertrude, and Bridget McCarthy as Laertes. (Am I biased? Good question. I met Bridget as an actor–we weren’t friends first. Her acting impressed me then, and continues to impress me now. Seeing her onstage after three years have passed shows me her substantial development.). Especially as the play wound toward its inevitable ending, both of their fierceness and power, always grounded and driven by the text, showed up in a big way. The last half-hour of the play was fantastic.
The production overall was a little uneven–each actor had some particular scene that was excellent, and others that lacked specificity. I learned later that their rehearsal schedule was incredibly truncated, and I think probably what I’m noticing is the lack of particulars that one can’t get into without a decent rehearsal period.
The blocking was odd, and I was trying to untangle it in my head as I watched. I’m honestly not sure how I would do it differently–the space has some major challenges, and they have a serious impact on the staging. Although the stage looks like a thrust, the house left side is the audience entrance to the theater–you can’t put seats there. On the house right side, there were only a few seats. So the blocking was proscenium-ish, which felt strange on a space without a picture frame, but a more thrust-style blocking would have closed off the corners in weird ways, because there aren’t aisles where you can park actors and know that they won’t be in anyone’s way. I tried to talk through this with my tablemates, rearranging beer glasses to stand in for actors. They were chemists and a computer scientist; I think they followed what I was saying, but maybe they were just being polite.
The show ran over three hours, but didn’t feel like it. It bounced from one strong moment to the next.