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Hamletmachine: The Arab Spring
City Garage at Bergamot Station Arts Center
Santa Monica, CA
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Hamletmachine: The Arab Spring
The world premiere of a new version of the seminal work by Heiner Müller that defined post-modern Shakespeare. Part one of City Garage's three part series, "The Winter of Our Discontent: Shakespeare in the Digital Age."

Two Hamlets wander a bizarre, absurd and devastated political landscape from the fall of Communism to the ascendency of ISIS. Their journey starts as they board the locomotive of the Revolution with mad Uncle Karl at the wheel. Round and round and round they go, at each stop, the bloody disasters of the 20th century, like the stations of the cross for a long-suffering humanity. Thrown from the exploding train, they wander on to meet the ghost of their vengeful father, their Alzheimer's afflicted mother Gertrude, and finally the fair Ophelia, who has become an Islamic Terrorist. But that's only the start of their 21st century adventure through the looking glass. They are hounded by religious fundamentalists, plunged into a digital nightmare of new media, diverted by Ophelia as a stripper, experiment with gender roles, conscripted into a Dolce and Gabbana fashion show, then finally launched headlong into the conflicts and tragedies of the Arab Spring, from which they emerge more dazed, confused, and maddened than ever. "Oh, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown," intones a grief-stricken Horatio. This way madness lies, indeed. But as they stand in the final snowstorm, facing a bottomless sea, they confront the question with which they began: to be or not to be. What answer do they finally offer?

"Opening on the night of the Paris terrorist attacks, Hamletmachine: The Arab Spring proved overtaken by events, nevertheless disturbingly enriched by their dread and horror. The action opens with Müller's duo of Hamlets (read: humankind) emerging naked from the sea and ends with them reentering the waters, presumably rising to reclaim them. Such piquant imagery characterizes director Frédérique Michel's absolute empathy with the material, expressed through the discomfiting grace and resigned flair with which the actors (all company veterans) embrace their fates as cogs in the mechanism.The strongest virtue of this latest opus, if one may mix metaphors for such digitally-preoccupied material, is its hot-from-the-typewriter, ripped-from-the-headlines quality of unmediated reaction. Michel amplifies the sense of freshness by eschewing any fussiness in her flourishes, giving an impression (perhaps misleading) of fleet creation, the ensemble serving and the audience consuming the dish before it gets cold.This offering represents Part I of the company's "post-modern Shakespeare" season, "The Winter of Our Discontent: Shakespeare in the Digital Age", which tidily sums up the impact of this most immediate piece of theater. It made me mindful of the Depression-era Living Newspaper, of both the absurdity of Man's destructiveness and the engagement of conscious souls in struggle against it."

                                Myron Meisel, Stage Raw

"Under Frederique Michel's typically striking, arch staging, Ophelia (Megan Kim) is both suicide bomber and stripper. Hamlet is, and isn't, or so he says. The play never existed, he remarks at one point. Like Eugene Ionesco, Muller, and to a lesser extent adaptor-playwright Duncombe, uses the power of words to assail the value of words, which I think is cheating. And which is why the power of Duncombe and Michel's visual images, not to mention the slightly sarcastic 'tude of the unified ensemble (Anne Bronston, David E. Frank, Jeffrey Gardner, Andrew Loviska, Alex Pike and Trace Taylor), carries the day, and the play."

                      Steven Leigh Morris, Stage Raw


City Garage at Bergamot Station Arts Center (View)
2525 Michigan Ave. Building T1
Santa Monica, CA 90404
United States


Arts > Theatre

Kid Friendly: No
Dog Friendly: No
Non-Smoking: Yes!
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!


Owner: City Garage
On BPT Since: May 24, 2010
Charles Duncombe


Al M.
Simi Valley, CA United States
Dec 19, 2015 12:56 PM
John B.
Santa Monica, CA United States
Dec 19, 2015 10:28 AM
John B.
Santa Monica, CA United States
Dec 19, 2015 10:28 AM
Bradford C.
LA, CA United States
Dec 18, 2015 11:14 PM
Lara B.
Pasadena, CA United States
Dec 17, 2015 8:42 PM

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