Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Play's the Thing with Girl Parts

I know all about being surrounded by females.

Because I grew up in an all-girl family with five sisters (okay, obviously there was my Dad; that's where all those sisters came from) I never knew a shortage of females.

The same could be said for Firehouse Theater's staged reading of  "A Gender-Reversed Hamlet" tonight.

There were nineteen women in the cast and only three guys.

It was beyond awesome.

Some of Richmond's best actresses had been pulled together to create a female cast in a play where usually men rule.

Not surprisingly, there was a full house to see how "Hamlet" played with estrogen.

There was a period of audience adjustment as we got our minds around seeing a black man (Todd Patterson) play Ophelia and a very tall white man (Joe Inscoe) play the role of Queen Gertrude.

Seeing Joe bend down almost a foot to lay his head on the King's shoulder required a certain open mindedness that challenged people, resulting in some tittering at what they were seeing.

But mostly, we were caught up in the drama of one of the best family tragedies ever written and the novelty of women playing men was forgotten.

Needless to say, this was not a sit-down style staged reading.

The actors moved around, interacting, grave digging and even fighting as the script required (scripts replaced rapiers).

Afterwards during the talkback, several people mentioned the uncomfortable laughter about men in women's roles.

It was explained away as something we're not culturally as comfortable with as women playing men.

The irony here, of course, is that in Shakespeare's time, all the roles would have been played by men.

Come on, Elizabethan women were not worthy of being players.

But that was then.

In tonight's version, Hamlet had a ponytail. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were babes.

Maybe it's my unique family history, but I really liked my Shakespeare with breasts.


  1. I'm so thrilled you enjoyed it Karen!

    Wow. What a review!

    I'll wipe my unmanly tears now.

    Thank you for coming and for the kind words.


  2. And thank you for deciding to stage such a unique display of RVA's female talent!

    I've said it before, but it bears repeating. Firehouse's staged readings are the best theatrical deal in town.

    PS: If anyone titters at your tears, send them my way. I'll set them straight.