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A CurtainUp Review
Shakespeare In The Park(ing) Lot's Hamlet

Now cracks a noble heart. Goodnight, sweet Prince,/And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.— Horatio
A drive-in Hamlet? Theatergoers who plan a visit to The Drilling Company's new production of Hamlet might consider taking their own car and driving it right to the performing space, a working municipal parking lot on Manhattan's Lower East Side (at the corner of Ludlow and Broome Streets). In its 20th season, this company's Shakespeare In The Park(ing) Lot production is the Bard's best-known masterpiece. It's directed by the company's founding artistic directorHamilton Clancy to sparkle, but the sparkle is that of a diamond in the rough.

Like the legendary Joseph Papp, Clancy's mission is to bring free Shakespeareto the public. Instead of planting his Shakespeare productions in Central Park, he gives them an urban spin with a parking lot setting.

This a Hamlet is a real departure for The Drilling Company. Rather than keeping with their normally political edge, Instead of aiming for a political edge, the focus here is to investigate the contemporary dysfunctional family. Moreover, Clancy has boldly streamlined the play by cutting out early scenes, paring down later ones, and omitting Fortinbras and other minor characters altogether.

The chemistry of this cast is palpable. Four of the actors — Alessandro Colla, Karla Hendrick, McKey Carpenter, and Amanda Dillard — appeared together last November and January in The Drilling Company's production of Reservoir, a modern adaptation of Eric Henry Sanders' Woyzeck. Though the acting is uneven, there are some fine moments. McKey Carpenter plays the dashing man-of-the-world Laertes with flair; Graciany Miranda is well-cast as Hamlet's devoted college-friend Horatio; Karla Hendrick brings a refreshing no-nonsense manner to Gertrude; David Sitler is able as King Claudius; Bill Green possesses both mystery and menace as The Ghost; the attractive Amanda Dillard really nails Ophelia's madness scene; Andrew Markert and Jed Peterson are merely competent as the yes men, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern; and Paul Guskin, as the pseudo-practical dispenser of advice gly but goes up on his lines later on. As I saw the play during the first week, Guskin may have become more relaxed in his role.

Naturally, Hamlet, as the titular character, has the lion's share of the play (The Dane speaks 1495 lines in the text). Allessandro Colla has the necessary ferocity for the part, and holds his own on stage for the entire evening. Though I was completely underwhelmed by his opening monologue ("O that this too, too solid flesh would melt, . . ."), I gradually warmed to his gravelly New York voice. Colla possesses an emotional palette that goes from subtle to hard-pounding power. He finds a way to connect to the audience that depends less on hitting the right stress of the iambic pentameters and more on honest down-to-earth feeling. His is a hard-boiled Hamlet with a gritty New York edge.

Not everything worked like a charm. Hamlet's "to-be-or-not-to-be" speech took a back seat to real-life here. Just as Colla began to deliver the famous words, a car entered the parking lot close to the stage. Amidst its engine sounds, the car door's opening and people bustling a few feet away, Colla's soliloquy was muffled by the noise. Though Shakespeare In The Park(ing) Lot loses some poetry to its surroundings, each performance has undeniable authenticity. Like Shakespeare's own Globe Theatre, this tiny stage is largely influenced by serendipitous events, and people either passing by or stopping to watch.

If you want a bare-boned evening of Shakespeare, you'll want to visit this Hamlet and his dysfunctional family. As director Clancy likes to brag: "We've never turned anyone away and there's never a wait for tickets."

Written by William Shakespeare
Directed and produced by Hamilton Clancy
Cast: Allesandro Colla (Hamlet), Amanda Dillard (Ophelia), McKey Carpenter (Laertes), Paul Guskin (Polonius), Karla Hendrick (Gertrude), David Sitler (Claudius), Bill Green (The Ghost), Jennifer Fouche (The Player Queen), Jed Peterson (Guildenstern), Miguel Govea (Marcellus), Graciany Miranda (Horatio), Andrew Markert (Rosencrantz), Kate Garfield (Bernadine), James Butler (Osric) Dan Teachout (Gravedigger), Eric P. Harper (Marcellus/Luciano), Lulu Costanzo (Player).
Sets: Rebecca Lord-Surratt
Fight Choreographer: Kathy Curtiss
Performances are at the Municipal Parking Lot at the corner of Ludlow and Broome Streets, Manhattan (Subways F to Delancey Street, walk one block south.) Tickets are free. For more information, visit or phone (212) 873-9050.
From 7/28/11; closing 8/13/11.
Thursday through Saturday @ 8pm.
Running time: 2 hours; 25 minutes with no intermission
Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan based on press performance of 7/30/11
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