With so many venues and companies across our theatre scene, it’s not surprising that an array of onstage renderings find an audience each and every week locally. As Valentine’s Day-weekend approaches, love will take center stage in a variety of ways. An inspired magic show, “The Queen of Hearts,” at Browncoat Pub and Theatre, will open February 12, and a classic tale of The Bard, “Hamlet,” at UNCW, will pull back the curtains next week, February 19.
UNCW Cultural Arts Building
5270 Randall Dr.
A cloaked dagger and the weighted question, “To be or not to be,” have long been clichés in Western rapport thanks to “Hamlet.” The iconic, brooding prince once again will find himself onstage in Wilmington beginning this weekend at the UNCW Cultural Arts Building on the university’s campus.
Under the direction of Christopher Marino—artistic director of the newly launched Dram Tree Shakespeare company—this production of “Hamlet” will take on the First Quarto incarnation of the script. It was a script published prior to the First Folio and features an added scene with Horatio and Gertrude and character name changes. As well, the line, “To be or not to be; that is the question,” becomes “To be or not to be; ay, there’s the point.” Marino chose this version of the script to add a bit of nuance to such a heavily treaded story.
In accordance to adding freshness, they also have given the roles of the Gravediggers (all Skakespeare productions need their clowns) to two females: Mickey Johnson and Sarah Parsons. “I think it is great to see women take a crack at these roles,” Marino says. “There is something lovely about having this gender swap in comedic roles.”
Driven by universal themes, such as revenge, pride and betrayal, the story chronicles Hamlet as he devises a scheme to enact revenge on his uncle, Claudius, for the death of his father. The ugly, deep-seated emotions will be a focus of the production.
“‘Hamlet,’ at it’s core, is about a father and son and the moral implications of being asked to take revenge,” Marino says. “It demands all you have and then some … Hamlet is a character of great intelligence and sensitivity, and in identifying with his struggle, we see something about our own humanity.”
UNCW student Luke Robbins will be undertaking the main role. In fully immersing himself as Hamlet, he has studied the Elizabethean text, “The Anatomy of Melancholy,” which delves into how madness was considered during the time. Spurred by the safe environment Morino has created during rehearsal, Robbins has tried to bring Hamlet to life as a regular person rather than becoming bogged down with the character’s larger-than-life status.
“When the play begins, you see a guy who’s still mourning the loss of his father,” Robbins says. “Everyone else has moved on, including his mother, so he’s left alone to grieve. He spends much of the play by himself, only placing trust in one person (Horatio). He gets trapped in his head, he makes mistakes, he contemplates things that we contemplate everyday. He just does it in his own unique way.”
Performing as Hamlet’s crazed love interest, Ophelia, will be Julia Ormond. She, too, has focused on the character’s relatability—not necessarily to bring out Ophelia’s craziness but to exude the emotions of a girl who’s lost everything. The character’s seemingly nonsensical monologues are grounded in allusions to her situation despite her inability to properly communitcate her feelings.
“What affects me most about Ophelia is that she’s just a lovestruck teenager who has horrible things happen to her,” Ormond details. “We all have a little Ophelia inside of us. We know what it’s like to be hopelessly in love.”
The play will pulse with an organic range of emotions rather than a mere recitation of the play—a trope which befalls many “Hamlet” productions. Costuming will resemble modified 16th-century attire.
The show opens on Thursday, February 19, at UNCW Mainstage Theatre. It will run Thursday through Sunday through March 1. Tickets, available at etix.com or through the Kenan box office, are $12 for general admission, $10 for UNCW employees and $5 for students. Showtimes are at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sundays.
The Queen of Hearts
Browncoat Pub and Theatre, 111 Grace St.
Valentine’s Day will turn a little gothic this year. Combining equal parts mystique and humor, female mentalist Claire Voyant will bring her psychological reading and manipulation to the intimate Grace Street hub. She will create a burlesque-infused magic show.
“The Miss Claire Voyant persona is a carefully crafted balance of mysterious temptress meets snarky psychology buff,” Voyant details. “[I am] always one step ahead of the game.”
Donning a 50s-inspired red swing dress and black-seamed stockings to tie in the Valentine’s day component, Claire Voyant will create a unique cabaret experience. With the help of a minimalist set—which will feature a magician’s case, a sketch pad and a small table—she intends to use her mental prowess to wow the audience.
“The piece is an entirely original magic production,” she says. “‘The Queen of Hearts’ moniker is a play on the kitschy Valentine’s nature of the show. The show was specifically produced and put together for this run in Wilmington.”
The performance will include her escaping from a strait jacket while wearing heels, numerous illusions and even razor-blade eating. With college degrees in business and psychology, along with in-depth exploration of mentalism, Claire Voyant aims to truly yield a psychological exploration for audience members. The show will be participation heavy; at least 13 volunteers will be enlisted at each performance.
“The challenges are always present, but very much part of the magic game,” she says. “It’s one of the most difficult yet rewarding, professions.”
The show will run February 12 through 15, with shows at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Tickets, which are $15 for general admission and $10 for students, are available through www.browncoattheatre.com.