Theatre Fairfield’s five performances of “Fortinbras,” spanning from Wednesday, Oct. 23 to Sunday, Oct. 27, delivered a truly hilarious and enjoyable show for all in attendance.
The story of “Fortinbras” begins where Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” concludes. The cast provided an incredible sequence of scenes which silently summarized “Hamlet” before finishing this revisitation with a talkative fight scene. This montage consisted of incredible lighting, staging and music, and it also provided necessary context for the audience to understand the significance of the play. In this play, Fortinbras, portrayed by Carlin Fournier ‘22, inherits Hamlet’s throne. He insists that his success as king will depend on how well he lies to the public. This reluctance to tell the truth unearths the political satire which causes so much of the humor in this play. Fortinbras also never has any idea where his troops are or what they are doing, further establishing this political satire. In one scene, Fournier delivers a masterful transition of complete, frantic panic to serene composure where he asserts “I have total control.” Moments such as this help construct the hilariousness of this play.
Sophomore Maya Kapur does a remarkable job portraying Horatio, Fortinbras’s voice of reason, whose hilarious body language perfectly conveys the frustration of a political advisor attempting to remain ethical. Horatio’s counterpart Osric, played by Michael Stack ‘22, provides great comedic balance to Fortinbras’s crew of servants through his timid, passive personality. By the end of the play, these characters have joined Polonius (Martha Hegley ‘20), Ophelia (Emily Ramsey ‘20), Claudius (Park Lytle ‘21), Gertrude (Fallon Sullivan ‘20) and Hamlet (Declan Quigley ‘22) as ghosts who float around the castle. These ghosts, all deceased characters from “Hamlet,” possess newfound morals and principles in the afterlife. Ramsey wonderfully captures the aggressively seductive nature of Ophelia, but this behavior still does not even come close to comparing to that of Claudius and Gertrude. Lytle and Sullivan display the conflict between wishing to remain pure and wholesome and possessing sexual urges which are strong enough to make them flail around like animals, performing physical comedy so outrageous that Shakespeare himself would roll over in his grave. This explicit sexual comedy intertwines with other hilarious elements through the characters of the two Polish maidens played by Kiersten Bjork ‘21 and Samantha Millette ‘20. The language barrier between these girls and Fortinbras creates an abundance of funny exchanges. As a dead man, Hamlet too gains a newfound sense of self; his new violent tendencies inspire him to demand that fellow ghosts repeatedly stab Claudius in another truly bizarre scene.
This play’s humor at the expense of Shakespearean principles constitute the central messages of this comedy’s magnificence. Hamlet revolves around royalty, violence, honor. In this play, Polonius claims that, “Death has been my greatest disappointment, it’s too much like life.” Fortinbras shrugs off his own death in a similarly comical fashion, merely suggesting, “Not everything works out.” Such phrases as, “The examined life is also not worth living” and “Oops, we’re back to telling the truth again” further magnify this comic element.
Besides the acting itself, this play delivered in a performance so laudable that I would be outrageously wrong if I did not emphasize all the other elements which construct this magnificent show. The use of props such as watermelons, full-body dummies and inflatable genitalia compliment the stage’s lighting and background devices which bring this play to life. The cast does an impressive job of maneuvering all over the massive staircase and other elevated surfaces on stage. Out of all this staging, the most impressive element was the flawless execution of a stage trick involving dialogue with a VHS video.
In closing, Theatre Fairfield delivered a gem of a show from top to bottom. The entire audience remained captivated for the length of the two plus hour performance, and I think everybody experienced quite a few more laughs than they expected.