Monday, May 2, 2016


Having been alerted to the existence of the Shotgun Players' Hamlet, for which, five minutes before each performance, the seven actors' names are drawn from a hat (well, Yorick's skull) to determine who will play which roles that evening, I figured I had to go, and Sunday was my best early chance.

This evening, the sorting hat dictated the most conventional casting available, given the company, with the older men playing Claudius and Polonius and a younger one Laertes, while the women's roles both went to women of a similar age balance; still, that left the Prince played by a young woman who reminded me of Tami Vining at the same age (for those of you who know her), and she did not seem inappropriate for the part.

But though I might have wished to see casting a little more outré, everyone was very good and the lines were read intelligently. Polonius was very funny. The text was cut severely; the pirate episode is entirely gone but, peculiarly, the foreshadowings of it are still there. This was less of an intense Hamlet than some I've seen - Ophelia's decline was amusingly stylized rather than tragic, for instance - but I've never found a stage production of this supreme play that was less than excellent. This was entirely worthy, and I may go back later for another try.

Going to this in Berkeley also meant that I could squeeze in, earlier in the day, the first half of the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra concert in Oakland. Much as I regretted missing Beethoven's Seventh in the second half, I was there for the premiere of Hunger Strike by Amy X Neuburg, my favorite avant-cabaret artist. She'd been commissioned by SFCO for a song cycle, and came up with one on the somber and important topic of prison solitary confinement. It's half an hour long, with Neuburg's voice accompanied by her electronic equipment, a string quartet, and the orchestra. It was hard to say what the orchestra added to the proceedings: mostly it either drowned her out or she drowned it out. There were some nicely balanced parts with the string quartet, though, and the electronic looping nicely conveyed both the numbing repetition and the ceaseless noise of prison life (one of the songs is titled "Ear Plugs" as in, the prisoner wishes he had some). The lyrics, like most of Neuburg's, mixed wry and whimsy in with seriousness.

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