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The Bard Descends on Sanford Upon Avon

Cast of Canned Hamlet

Cast of Canned Hamlet

Photo: by Dave Parent

By Lawrence Furbish

To paraphrase Shakespeare, “Blow, blow thou winter winds, thou are not so unkind as a March snowstorm.” If you were able to get out last weekend to catch the two Shakespeare one-act farces performed at the Nasson Youth Theater, you lucked out. Of course, the more you knew or remembered about William Shakespeare, the more you enjoyed these two funny adaptations.

First on the bill was Canned Hamlet (canned ham, get it?). Jordyn Martin was a terrific Hamlet, tall, energetic, throwing out her lines loud and clear, and with a ton of physicality. Jacob Skahan as the evil Claudius and Mia Lantagne as the despicable Gertrude were perfect foils. I’m not sure how a vampire snuck into this play, but it brought about a really entertaining bit involving Alistair Rowell (Marcellus) turned into a vampire, trying to bite Hamlet’s arm while being foiled by Carter Skahan (Bernardo) with garlic and a cross.

The ghost of Hamlet’s murdered father, played by Rebeka Minihan-Yalcin, brought boos and moans galore. Another really clever moment was the entrance of Richard III (Quinn Gardner) who immediately began to declaim, “Now is the Winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York” only to be told that he was in Denmark and this was the wrong play.

The play concluded, just as the original does, with lots of dead bodies strewn around the stage and young Fortinbras of Norway surveying the scene and lamenting the carnage.

Next up was Mmmbeth, the title deriving from the long-held theater tradition that actually speaking the name of this play is bad luck. It starts with a bang, as the three witches (Jordyn Martin, Rebeka Minihan-Yalcin, and Irie Mastrella) meet on the heath in thunder, lightning and rain to double, double toil and trouble their caldron. The interplay as the witches berate each other becomes a running gag throughout this production.

Bryn Rice was a glamorous and evil Lady Mmmbeth who manipulates her husband, Mmmbeth (Mia Lantagne) into the nefarious plot to fulfill the witches’ predictions. Some interesting gender bending goes on here with Duncan being a Queen rather than a King, and a number of other major characters being played by women. In Shakespeare’s time, women were not allowed to act on the stage and all the women’s roles were played by men.

The puns flew thick and fast and after a while my eyes and ears glazed over with the repetition of “Duncan Donuts”. All of the characters kept looking for interesting and unique exit lines; many from Shakespeare’s plays were thrown in, including the most famous stage direction of all, “Exit, pursued by a bear.” from The Winter’s Tale.

Politics, spin doctoring, and advertising were all big parts of this show. One of the most entertaining was a gag where the two murderers (Alistair Rowell and Jacob Skahan) did a commercial touting their skills as assassins. They really killed it! In addition, music was occasionally inserted from a variety of sources including The Sound of Music, Phantom of the Opera, and The Beverly Hillbillies.

Kudos to all involved, including directors George Perkins, Cat Mathews, Ash Muise, Emily Sheffield, Dave Parent, Nikki Muise and Jeff Hartley. What a great way to get younger people involved in theater but also acquainted with William Shakespeare.

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