Oct

28

Toubib Or Not Toubib

Written by

So angsty.

Bwog’s Wednesday Daily Editor, Jed Bush, headed to Lerner Black Box last night to witness the biggest deal ever–Columbia does Hamlet.

I’ve never been a particularly big fan of Shakespeare—my exposure in high school was mostly limited to second period English, where I used our class readings of As You Like It, Twelfth Night and the Tempest as a chance to catch up on sleep. Yet when approaching Hamlet, it was hard, even for me, not to feel a certain gravitas, and I’m sure the cast and crew felt the same way. Its legacy speaks for itself and is so ingrained in western culture that even Roland Emmerich can’t resist destroying it.

So as I entered the Black Box last night, the minimalism of the production immediately struck me; the set modifications were limited to two sheets hanging on the stage, the props were few and far between, and the costumes were simple and modern, not unlike what you might see along College Walk. In clumsier hands, this approach could have felt lazy, but here it accentuated the few choices director Thomas Kapusta (CC ’12) did make (including portraying King Hamlet’s ghost as a silhouette against one of the sheets), while shining the spotlight on the actors.

Hamlet, played by Brian LaPerche (CC ’12), is tasked with balancing the overwrought, tortured soul with the cocksure, condescending prince, and does so with ease. The scenes where Hamlet embraces his smarmy side were quite entertaining and, to LaPerche’s credit, despite an air of complete pretentiousness, still managed to charm the audience. That said, as LaPerche, donning a nondescript black hoodie, slipped back and forth between these two extreme personas, he evoked images of a spoiled, angsty teen who drowned out his agony with the Elizabethan equivalent of Linkin Park. While the production as a whole seemed quite self-aware of some of Hamlet’s absurdities (both as a play and a character), here, Kapusta risked the production falling into self-parody.

Much like the titular character, the rest of the play also seemed to be suffering an identity crisis, with hilariously over-the-top performances by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (wearing distractingly bright yellow and red costumes) providing a jarring contrast with Chuck Roberts’ (CC ’12) understated, yet chilling, Claudius. Victoria Pollack (BC ‘12) and Tara Pacheco (CC ‘13) playing Ophelia and Gertrude, respectively, both avoid flashy or revelatory interpretations of their characters, instead providing nuances to their character that helped bring them to life in an endearing, also understated, way.  Still, with such a wide range of interpretations, it was again hard to find a balance and see Kapusta’s vision for how these eclectic pieces would come together.

Yet, in these two seemingly irreconcilable sides to the play, Kapusta managed to marry them in an unorthodox fashion, relying on the production’s stand-out performance—Michael Abraham (CC ’12) as Polonius. Abraham juggles bumbling, senile, and good-intentioned simultaneously, bridging the gap between the eccentricities and the shadow of tragedy by coupling his superb comedic timing and delivery with a real earnestness. Every time Polonius was on stage, the audience was either captivated, in stitches, or, occasionally, both. Abraham brings a real human touch to the extremes of this tragedy.

As the play reached the climax, the two faces of Hamlet (the character and the production) finally began to bleed together and the many pieces fell into their place.  While the various fringes of the first half felt disjointed, here, the performances came together as the tension built in a crescendo. The return of Daniel O’Neill (CC ’13) as Laertes brought a real sense of rage to the play, which had been mostly dealt with angst up until this point. When it came time for the bodies to hit the floor during Laertes and Hamlet’s thrilling showdown, I was transfixed. Despite having read it before and seen countless variations of it on the stage and the silver screen, I found myself (literally) on the edge of my seat, waiting in suspense.  Though it may be rough around the edges and often perplexing in its incongruities, KCST’s Hamlet never bores.  Coming from someone who’s ambivalent to Shakespeare, that’s no simple feat.

KCST’s Hamlet is playing in the Lerner Black Box 7:30 pm Friday, and 1:30 pm and 7:30 pm Saturday. It’s free. All shows are sold out, but if you go and sign up on the wait list, you can probably get it.

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12 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Brian Laperche's Hamlet is amazing. I've never seen an actor so invested and transformed. And shoutout to the guy who was the ghost/the player. The ghost's monologue was terrifying, and the player's speech to die for.

  2. This gonna be good!  

    *grabs popcorn.*

  3. MICHAEL ABRAHAM  

    is the love of my life.

  4. Maybe

    if the reviewer had stayed awake during second period he would have learned that any Shakespeare, but especially Hamlet, is about contrasts. Push and pull. Give and take. That's what I got from last night's performance. Bravo!

  5. man fuck toubib

    i came to columbia just to party, get an i-banking job, and marry a white woman.
    i put in work. where's my cash.

    - asian guy, cc ’12

  6. Toubib?  

    Totally don't get the title of this piece. Other than that though, it thoughtfully pointed out both positives and negatives and interacted with both the acting and the direction. Props to Bwog for stepping it up.

    • Anonymous  

      I liked the fact that the reviewer had an opinion about the show, but nonetheless it would have been nice to have someone who knew "Hamlet" or liked Shakespeare review the piece. I thought that what the reviewer perceived as "disjointed" in the play was the result of the play itself, and the fact that "Hamlet" has both comedic and tragic elements. Mildly confusing perhaps, but also extraordinary when done well--as this production was. I also thought that for such a difficult production, it was remarkably clean and well-acted all around. Well done, KCST.

  7. Anonymous

    Brian Laperche is without a doubt one of the most talented actors I've ever seen--not only at Columbia, but in general. I am still thinking about his performance. Absolutely amazing.

  8. person

    I didn’t think the show was very good. The entire cast is very talented, but the writing was pretty bad. After seeing four of these shows, you can see the hackneyed Danish insider jokes coming from a mile away. Both the context and the relaying of the jokes were very unoriginal, and the subplots were so disjointed. The ghost throw-in and the revenge story were pretty awful. It made the show boring and predictably cheesy. Furthermore, in true Shakespearean tradition, everyone died at the end, causing much of the audience around me to lose interest and be spattered in blood. However, the two leads saved the show from a total disaster, and the charm and talent of the cast carried the show, effectively lifting this viewer’s judgement from a 5 to a 6.5 out of 10.

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