The Selfish Gene in CatchyName’s Evil Hamlet

The Shakespearean play can be a big problem for the community theatre.  The grand sweep of the argument of the play can be difficult to display on the small stage and while the author’s frequent digressions contribute to the illustration of truth, beauty, and goodness in Western Culture, the meanderings can be difficult to manage while preserving the big picture. 

CatchyName’s solution is to make each character the center of its own universe, focusing on the Self, the very idol of postmodern culture.  Each character tries to get its genes on the throne of Denmark and it is this focus that enables intensely sharp and original characters to emerge.  CatchyName’s production is a unique, non-traditional Shakespearean experience, at once entertaining and tragic, radical and ultimately subversive, faithful to the original text yet thoroughly contemporary in its presentation.  It is a production of substance, detail, and action as best befits the world's greatest tragedy. 

In the reduction of Hamlet to the postmodern personality, each character erupts from its greedy libidinal origin.  The tight focus works excellently well in the dungeon-like confines of the Stage Werx Theatre in San Francisco .  You can feel the claustrophobic prison of the narcissistic self. 

Cheated of his inheritance, Hamlet tries to split Gertrude and Claudius and deny conception of their child.  Ophelia, her stunning beauty in full blossom, conspires with her father to become queen, pushing the popular but dissipated Laertes out of the nest.  Gertrude works to deny the family of Polonius the opportunity of royalty.  Gertrude and Claudius smile at the death of Ophelia while the angst-ridden Laertes lurks for his opportunity.  The Ghost wants his son on the throne and only Horatio, the distant outsider, can afford to relax and to wait. 

As in all of Shakespeare’s plays, against the backdrop of struggle, each character displays its humanity in brief moments of sincere confession. 

And the biggest solution CatchyName has brought to the small stage is their excellent cast under the able directorship of Irving Schulman.  They will have trouble hanging on to Alexia Lodde, as she attracts LOTS of attention.  Ophelia is usually played as obedient, weepy, and falling apart.  Alexia’s portrayal is simultaneously fresh, defiant, sexy, big-city dangerous, and tragic, qualities that I have never seen before in this part. 

Charlotte Brockman’s Gertrude is a sharp and ironic study in narcissism.  Self-contained, self-centered, and self-interested, her Gertrude is a completely new interpretation of the part and her body language and obsessions are a great pleasure to watch.  Charlotte Brockman is an exquisitely consummate actress. 

Alex Plant tries to keep the lid on his portrayal of angst-ridden Laertes, fulminating out of the inner core of his being and rises to meet the circumstances, creating a unique portrayal of a dangerous young man burdened with ambition and conscience. 

Matt Ingle plays a young, powerful, vengeful, and cunning young man with the gift of eloquence and the time to display it.  It is a great pleasure to hear William Shakespeare's words spoken clearly and to discover the hidden corners of his language. 

By recentering the play on the individual, CatchyName has enabled the actors to build brilliantly original characters that have never before been seen on stage. 

CatchyName’s many experiences in the San Francisco Fringe Festival has trained the company in the production of concise, graphic, and fast-moving action.  Hamlet is a triumph of community theatre.  It undermines the conventions of Shakespearean theatre, delights the audiences, and outrages some critics.  This is good news indeed. 

Evil Hamlet plays until April 25th, 2009.  They will publish a video.  Check it out for yourself at

Jim Strope