By: Ryan Walters
Directed by: Halena Kays
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Hamlet replaced his tights with a jumpsuit and his flat cap with a crash helmet? Neither have I. Thankfully, The Neo-Futurists theatre troupe, led by Ryan Walters, has taken up that task, and is presenting us with the Daredevils Hamlet.
Stunts! Jack-Assery! Melancholy! This is how the show has branded itself. But don’t be fooled, this isn’t just a Johnny Knoxville meets William Shakespeare mash-up type production. Yes, there are laughs and yes, there is tumbling, hoop jumping, and synchronized dance numbers with strobe lights and smoke machines. But when it comes down to it, this show is more poignant and moving, than slapstick and mayhem.
By juxtaposing Hamlet, with the culture of today, the Daredevils, consisting of Ryan Walters, Jay Torrence, John Pierson, Anthony Courser, and Brennan Buhl, get the viewers to question the real definition of masculinity. Would you avenge your father’s death if your uncle killed him? Is nailing the performance of one of the worlds most coveted roles as macho as jumping a motorcycle over Caesars Palace? If Hamlet is so cool why doesn’t he have an action figure, like Robin Hood? All questions you may not ask yourself on a regular basis, but valid food for thought none the less.
Each Daredevil has a sense of teamwork and friendship which makes for great stage chemistry, but it’s their individual performance and reflections that make this show truly rewarding. Each performer has their own piece of the show, allowing them to showcase their stage prowess while giving their own insight on being a man…as esoteric or straightforward as it may be.
Most notably is Jay Torrence. His ability to change gears from being the most aggressive and energetic cast member, to the most tender and vulnerable was sight to behold. His poetic soliloquy on male friendship infers that two guys can love each other without being lovers, much like the relationship between Hamlet and Horatio. Note: If there is anyone who is familiar with the work of actor Richard E. Grant (Withnail and I, How to Get Ahead in Advertising) such as myself, you’ll be extra pleased.
If I had to complain about anything, it would be the fact that this show maybe has too much going on for it. It’s a sensory overload of sorts. While I was digesting the first 30 minutes, more was being put on my plate. A good way to get you to come back, I suppose.
It’s also very important to note, that you don’t have to like Shakespeare to get a kick out of this. You do however have to be able to appreciate the poetry and meter of a very distinct brand of comedy. And it seemed that the audience on opening night was that type of crowd.
Maybe it’s the fragile male ego or maybe it’s just modesty, but the Daredevils Hamlet doesn’t give itself as much credit as it deserves. A nice way to give the audience something they didn’t expect.
John B. Reinhardt
Date Reviewed: 8/22/10
The Neo-Futurarium/ 5153 N. Ashland Chicago / $15/$10 students and seniors w/ I.D./ “Pay What You Can Thursdays”/ General admission / Running time approximately 90 minutes/ Aug. 21st thru Sept. 25th / Thurs-Sat. at 8pm