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DPAC and FTT put a twist on theater classics

Michelle Fordice | Friday, September 8, 2006

The DeBartolo Performing Arts Center and the Department of Film, Television and Theatre (FTT) are set to launch another theatre season, this time with a couple of twists on some old classics. This season’s performances include “Hamlet,” “Big Love,” “Threepenny Opera” and “The Mousetrap.”

The Actors From the London Stage will get this season underway at Washington Hall with a production of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” Probably Shakespeare’s most well-known tragedy, “Hamlet” is a grasping tale of treachery, madness, and murder. Prince Hamlet is asked by his father’s ghost to avenge his untimely death after his brother Claudius murdered him and then proceeded to marry his wife and Hamlet’s mother. As the play continues, all proudly fall into death and insanity in true tragic form.

The Actors From the London Stage, based in London, use Notre Dame as their American home and travel all over the country from here. They are known for performing their plays with limited actors (five actors will play over twenty-five characters in this version of “Hamlet”), sets and props. This should inspire a very fundamental and different telling of the play that won’t suffer from distractions. “Hamlet” will run from Sept. 13 to Sept. 15.

Charles L. Mee’s “Big Love,” the first show put on by the FTT department, is a modernized version of Aeschylus’ “The Suppliant Woman” and will directed by FTT professor Siiri Scott. The source material from Aeschylus is considered to be the oldest surviving play from the western world. “Big Love” begins when Fifty Greek brides flee their impending marriage to their fifty cousins by boat and find refugee at an Italian villa. Soon after, their fiancés track them by helicopter and arrive at the scene, prompting an explosion of emotions and plots. This comedic, physical (the cast needs to be able to do gymnastics as much as act) and extravagant approach to issues of gender, society and commercialism is one that shouldn’t be missed.

“Big Love” has already been cast and a fight coordinator will be brought in to “stage the mayhem and train the performers,” according to Kevin Dreyer, an FTT associate professor and Director of Theater for the department. “Big Love” will run from Nov. 7 to Nov. 17.

“The Mousetrap” is an appropriate end to a season that began with “Hamlet” and will be directed by FTT professor Jay Paul Skelton. “The Mousetrap” is Hamlet’s name for the famous play in which he tries “to catch the conscience of the king.”

But this play is not the grim “The Murder of Gonzago,” but the stage version of a radio play by murder mystery master Agatha Christie,which has become the longest continuously running play in history, having been performed in London since 1952.

A young couple has just opened the Monkswell Manor Guest House and are preparing for their first visitors. As an eccentric group of guests arrives it begins to snow, and soon there is no hope of leaving the house. But before they can settle in comfortably, a police officer arrives at the house claiming that a murderer is in the vicinity.

When one of the guests is killed, they realize that the murderer is already there, and they have no escape. The suspicions rise and tensions mount in this classic Christie mystery. “The Mousetrap” will run from February 27th to March 4th.”

“Threepenny Opera,” (to be directed by FTT professor Anton Juan) the department’s first musical theatre piece in over twenty years, is an adaptation of the 18th century English Ballard opera “The Beggar’s Opera,” but this is no “La Boehme” or “Madame Butterfly.” With a jazzy score that created the standard “Mack the Knife” and a plot that features anti-heroes, love triangles and crime, “Threepenny Opera” is an irresistible show.

It opens as the notorious criminal Macheathe (Mack the Knife) marries Polly Peachum to the displeasure of her powerful father. Jonathan Peachum and his wife set out to have Macheathe hanged and begin building up plots wrapped in betrayal. “Threepenny Opera” will run from April 17 to April 22.

Each of this year’s selections is a step back from the norm, and should be wonderfully attuned to a modern audience. There is a little something for everyone, from murder, to romance, to jazz. Don’t miss what looks to be an amazing season at the DPAC.