iHAMLET (Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre): Fringe Review 28

Melissa Dunphy stars in iHAMLET at The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre (Photo credit: Kendall Whitehouse) 

Melissa Dunphy stars in iHAMLET at The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre (Photo credit: Kendall Whitehouse)

Robin Malan’s iHAMLET, a stripped-down contemporary one-man adaptation of Hamlet, is performed in The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre’s Fringe production by one impressive woman. Actor/musician/composer Melissa Dunphy displays a remarkable command of the non-linear script, not once misspeaking a word of her 55-minute solo performance. She also accompanies herself on the latest carbon fiber viola, with expressive music that underscores the protagonist’s moods and emotions. The sparse stage design includes a huge mirror into which she gazes as a symbol of self-reflection, and the black stage, costume, and viola capture the tragic essence of Hamlet’s mournful and deteriorating mental state. Unnerving recorded music and spectral spotlighting of the suddenly darkened stage effectively conjure the ghost of Hamlet’s father.

Director David O’Connor plays up Shakespeare’s play-within-a-play device, as Dunphy sings and strums the Hair version of “What a Piece of Work Is Man,” checks her iPhone for the correct word (“too too sullied” or “too too solid flesh?”), and repeats and revisits the famous soliloquies, at once an actor memorizing Shakespeare’s lines and Hamlet going over and over the events and their consequences in his tortured mind. She owns the stage as she moves, paces, sits, climbs, holds her head, and collapses (with a very current last utterance in place of the iconic “the rest is silence”), spilling the Prince’s guts out in a decidedly post-modern manner, just as our own internet generation does on the social media (hence the lower-case “i” in the title). [The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, 2111 Sansom Street] September 7-14, 2014; http://fringearts.com/event/ihamlet-7/.

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About the author

Debra Miller

Debra holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Delaware and teaches at Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ. She is a judge for the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre, Philadelphia Arts and Culture Correspondent for Central Voice, and has served as a Commonwealth Speaker for the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and President of the Board of Directors of Da Vinci Art Alliance. Her publications include articles, books, and catalogues on Renaissance, Baroque, American, Pre-Columbian, and Contemporary Art, and feature articles on the Philadelphia theater scene.