NSR’s ‘Hamlet/5’ premieres this weekend in Washington Hall
Peter Breen | Friday, February 3, 2023
The Not-So-Royal (NSR) Shakespeare Co.’s “Hamlet/5” comes to fruition in Washington Hall’s Lab Theatre this first weekend of February on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.
Notre Dame’s student-run Shakespeare troupe is known for its semiannual Bard productions, traditionally performed at semester’s end with a sizable cast and crew. This weekend’s show, however, will feature just five actors.
“[‘Hamlet/5’] is one of our side, experimental productions NSR likes to do besides the main shows,” Christina Randazzo —or Hamlet, Princess of Denmark — told The Observer.
The production was deeply inspired by Actors From The London Stage (AFTLS), a traveling group of professional actors who put on five-actor Shakespeare productions at Notre Dame a couple times a year, Randazzo added.
Randazzo and Ballard Powell, who plays Claudius, Laertes and the Ghost, have been cultivating the play’s vision since the summer of 2022 — cutting down the script, pinpointing three additional thespians and then dividing out the various roles in the play evenly.
Jenna Rame plays Gertrude and Ophelia, Noah Sim takes on the roles of Horatio and Rosencrantz among others and Dominic Keene, who plays seven different dramatis personae by the end of the production, rounds out the cast list. All five NSR veterans are the show’s co-directors as well.
Above all else, “Hamlet/5” is a character-driven, relationship-driven tragedy in which collaboration is the name of the game. The quintet employed simplicity in set design, props and costumes, a necessity in such a small production, to expedite their story-telling talents.
The play’s timeless themes — darkness, beauty, corruption and trust — are perhaps best investigated through the eyes of the mourning Princess — not Prince — of Denmark.
“We wanted to show how universal Hamlet is by [casting] a young female Hamlet and focusing on relationships,” Randazzo said. “Hamlet and Ophelia’s relationship is just as hauntingly beautiful with two women as it is otherwise [for example].”
Rame, who plays both Hamlet’s potential love interest and Hamlet’s mother, added that she was able to develop heavy insight about the play’s rotten relationships by entering into the mind of multiple characters at once.
“Having to bounce back and forth between different characters all the time gives you more focus and more clarity as to what each of those characters represents to you and what each character is motivated by,” Rame said.
Keene, spending much of the performance with a bent back in his role as the old, foolish but possibly wise Polonius, cherished the opportunity to work with a smaller group of NSR actors than normal.
“We had to be a little more scrappy with this production,” Keene said. “Throughout the whole scope of the show, we’ve learned so much about directing and learning how to work well together, how to address each other’s ideas.”
Sim, the director of NSR’s Fall 2022 production, “The Winter’s Tale,” drew attention to the show’s use of light and sound design. He believes that tech is in fact way more involved than the acting side of the company.
“As actors, the tech just happens,” Sim said. “We don’t really have anything with it — it’s like magic. Having such talented people to actually do the physical task of making sure the tech happens, it’s very helpful.”
Powell, whose standout portrayal as the Ghost, Claudius and Laertes triggers Hamlet’s madness from every direction, is indispensable to this weekend’s performance for a reason behind the scenes as well. During winter break in Pittsburgh, the actors hunkered down for a week to block out all of the play’s movements in Powell’s basement.
“We had a week of rehearsals at my place,” Powell said. “We literally, during winter break, drove everyone to my house. If we did not have that week, we’d be screwed.”
Tickets for the three performances of “Hamlet/5” on Feb. 2-4 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Washington Hall Lab Theatre are available to purchase at the LaFortune Box Office for $5, or at the door for $7 while supplies last. Auditions for “Much Ado About Nothing,” NSR’s main show this semester, begin in the Lab Theatre on Sunday, Feb. 5.