Mrs. Scatter has unearthed this piece by Bill Varble in the Medford Mail Tribune about Alex Ainsworth, 12, of Ashland, who at the time of the story had seen the Oregon Shakespeare Festival‘s current Hamlet 97 times and was shooting for 116 — Hamlet No. 100 is due Wednesday. Amazing! Why so many times? “You learn more,” she told Varble.
Our own take on OSF’s Hamlet and Dan Donohue’s remarkable title performance is here. But we’re guessing Ainsworth could teach us a thing or three about the show.
Dan Donohue as Hamlet at OSF. Photo: David Cooper
By Bob Hicks
Lanky and improbably lean-headed, with a cliffside of forehead pierced by a widow’s peak of bristling orange hair, Dan Donohue looks a little like the late-night television host Conan O’Brien — or maybe an O’Brien sired by Loki, the god of mischief.
As Hamlet in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival‘s current production of the Danish play, Donohue wears his jester’s cap naturally, less like a disguise than a key accoutrement to an essential part of his makeup: Hamlet the Fool.
We’ve come a long way from Olivier, the quintessence of the romantically doomed heroic prince. Olivier once talked about the advantages of being not quite short and not quite tall: at about five-foot-eleven, he could shift the sense of his body big or small. Donohue is similarly poised between the comic and the dramatic, at ease in either direction and often, onstage, using elements of one to feed the other: He defies type. In the impenetrable yet irresistible question mark that is Hamlet, it’s an excellent place to begin.
There is no such thing as a definitive Hamlet. A lot of good actors have stumbled in the prince’s shoes, perhaps daunted by the familiarity of the language and previous performances, perhaps unwilling or unable to choose a Hamlet rather than reach for the Hamlet. Donohue is ready for the role. Consciously or subconsciously, he’s been preparing for Hamlet for a long time. On the Ashland stages he’s played Iago, Caliban, Mercutio, Prince Hal — all excellent prep for Hamlet. And anyone who recalls his Dvornichek in Tom Stoppard’s Coward-like farce Rough Crossing, or who sees his brief turn as the waiter in this season’s sparkling revival of the musical She Loves Me, understands his brilliance at deadpan comedy. He knows precisely who he wants his Hamlet to be, and that, combined with his potent craftsmanship and willingness at key moments to simply drop off the cliff and into the abyss, makes this one of the extremely few truly satisfying Hamlets I’ve seen. It’s a wonderful performance, and you really ought to see it.
Continue reading Ashland 3: Hamlet the Fool