How to become a Shakespeare fan

The name of the current Black Friars Theater Company tour is “Stark Raving Sane,” which can’t even begin to describe the lunacy of Luke Eddy’s antics on stage while playing Hamlet. Its apparent that this wasn’t the depressingly existential Hamlet of many productions. Eddy is part of the American Shakespeare Center and the Black Friar Theater Company, whose performance of “Hamlet” at the Southwick Recital Hall last Tuesday challenged viewers’ expectations of the play. The group’s main goal was to perform the play as Shakespeare would have it performed, which means using all of the Shakespearian staging conventions: universal lighting, a thrust stage, character doubling, and a group of trumpeters backstage. The tour also consisted of two other plays, “Rozencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead,” by Tom Stoppard and “The Comedy of Errors.” The company’s goal also means interpreting the play as they assumed Shakespeare would – not an easy task. Most college English students, many of whom filled the audience, might think to themselves, “Alright, there are two comedies, so the tragedy of Hamlet provides the tour with some balance.” But the second those students walked into the theatre, they would quickly learn that they were wrong.Not only did the actors provide a prelude to the show by serenading us with a satirical acoustic of modern tunes such as, “Crazy,” by Seal, but they also opened the play with “The Sixty Second Hamlet,” a song that sums up the entire plot with hysterical sarcasm.Modern audiences have all heard of dark comedies, tragicomedies, etc., but these terms didn’t even exist in Shakespeare’s day. There is evidence that tragedies were often humorous. Not only because the actors had to keep the riotous groundlings attention, but also because Shakespeare had an incredible way of taking the most horrendous human situations and finding the humor in them. Voltaire once called “Hamlet” “gross and barbaric,” and this definitely came through in this performance through the lucid sexual humor, violence, and absurdity. In Act III scene ii, Hamlet harasses Ophelia, asking if he may “lay his head upon her lap?” Then stating, “Do you think I meant count-ry matters?” This choice of emphasis was brilliant, because it not only aroused exorbitant laughter, but it got the audience to start appropriating the text in unexpected ways.There were many scenes in the performance that seemed to imply that Hamlet was faking insanity, but of course the question of his insanity, has and always will remain. This is especially true as the concept of insanity shifts over the years. In Act II, scene ii, Hamlet walked in through the back of the auditorium wearing a boot for a glove, and carrying a book. This aroused great laughter from the audience, as it of course appeared crazy. If the play was performed through Shakespeare’s eyes, this response from the audience might seem to imply that there is still some sort of universality behind the ideology of concepts like sanity and insanity. That they hold some absolute meaning that carries over through time. It seems that the audience takes on some sort of double perspective. They are laughing as an outside audience member, watching a rendition of “Hamlet” with all of their own “modern” insights, but they are also laughing because of some universally recognized ideology, which is to say that there are certain elements in this play that will always keep it relevant.The company’s choice to take the comedic route definitely implied a specific reading of the text, as well as history, and a thought provoking one at that. Maybe their choice to perform the play comically shouldn’t shock people nearly as much as it may. In fact, most of us know that much of today’s comedy was influence by Shakespeare. How many TV shows and comedians are out there that take serious issues of life and death and raise them to the comedic sublimity?