“Hamlet” is probably Shakespeare’s most often-quoted play — and also one of his longest, clocking in at over three hours.
But for nine performances running from August 8, Jerusalemites can enjoy a tightened version, “Hamlet: In Motion,” in the unique setting of the wonderful Bloomfield Gardens behind the King David Hotel. More than half the original script has been edited.
“Hamlet” is the eighth annual production of Theater in the Rough, the popular community theater ensemble directed by Beth Steinberg whose annual summer shows attract more than 3,000 people.
The company performs Shakespeare outdoors every year en promenade. Actors move around the park from scene to scene, using a variety of backdrops as the sun sets against the walls of the Old City across the valley.
“It’s been a pleasurable challenge to take on this most iconic of the Bard’s works,” says Steinberg. “We’ve got a team of hardworking actors, a dedicated crew, and are looking forward to sharing our vision of what’s really rotten in Denmark.”
Hamlet tells the tragic story of the prince of Denmark who, on arriving home for the funeral of his father, the king, he finds his mother already remarried to his uncle and hears ghostly whisperings that the king was murdered by his own brother. Vowing vengeance, Hamlet descends into a spiral of madness that threatens not only the life of the murderer but the destruction of all he holds dear.
“Hamlet is the story of a young prince who faces tragedy in his life and, instead of working his way through his grief, he turns to revenge. In the process, he only ends up hurting himself and those he loves,” says Shiri Berzack, who plays Laertes, a childhood friend of the prince.
As the story unfolds, we encounter some of Shakespeare’s most iconic scenes: the skull of Yorick, the spirit of Hamlet’s father, and the famous “To be, or not to be” speech.
“Hamlet is all about love and the lengths we’ll go to for the people we care about,” says Abigail Ellis, who plays Horatio, Hamlet’s faithful friend.
“Hamlet’s love for his father drove his vengeance and utter demise. Horatio’s love for Hamlet drove his unwavering support, Ophelia’s love for Hamlet and her father drove her to suicide, and Laertes’ love for his family landed him in the same position as Hamlet,” she says.
If it all sounds rather bleak, think again.
“I’m excited to bring a little humor to Hamlet,” Ellis says. “People always think of it as this dark and depressing show, but it’s really quite clever and funny. And I’m excited for people to finally see that.”
Natan Skop, who plays the title role, says Theater in the Rough is an “opportunity to create theater in a community that feels ownership and identity with the process.”
“I’m also enjoying the immense challenge and honor of exploring Hamlet, a never-ending journey of complex layers,” he says.
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Hamlet: In motion
Theater in the Rough
Shows begin at 5:30 p.m. on August 8, 9, 12, 13, 15, 16, 26, 27, and 28
Bloomfield Gardens, (Behind King David Hotel), Jerusalem
Free entrance. Suggested donation: NIS 35