Review: The Rude Mechanicals' "HamletMachine" stuns audiences with fresh, creative twists

Evan Janke as “The Actor Playing Hamlet”.

Evan Janke as “The Actor Playing Hamlet”.

by Naomi Eskenazi

“Get THEE to a Nunnery!”

AU Rude Mechanicals hits it out of the park (and into the nunnery) with their latest production “HamletMachine,” which takes the audience on an elaborate journey through the various performances of Hamlet throughout different time periods.

Maya Costanza, who played 90’s grunge Ophelia, summed up the show as: “A fucking journey, in the absolute best way.”

The show follows the newly born Hamlet from the Hamlet Machine, played by Evan Janke, as he goes through time to observe the different versions of Hamlet and Ophelia. He attempts to deny his role as a Hamlet and struggles with exploring the roles of being Hamlet the abuser or being the abused Ophelia until he comes to the decision of accepting the role or choosing death.

In this collaborative show that was created from an original script of four pages came a 90 minute breathtaking performance full of multimedia artforms from live music to graphic design to outstanding tech work with lighting that filled each scene with emotion. The show was created from the actors workshopping and interpreting the script themselves and making artistic choices.

“We built our own relationships between each of the Hamlet’s and Ophelia’s from the bottom up so we’re pulling ourselves from classical and contemporary texts,” Costanza said. “Everything has been such a collaborative experience and that’s my favorite part.”

The attention to detail in this performance was outstanding. The integration of set change by the actors was flawlessly executed and with the use of cardboard boxes a multitude of sets were created.

Director Andrew Watring said one of their main focuses was to help theater’s visual and aesthetic qualities and pulls through by paying extreme attention to lighting, sound, blocking and set design. One of the notable set choices was Andrew’s utilization of the cardboard boxes to go from creating elaborate thrones to pedestals to doorways.

“The interdisciplinary multifaceted usage I thought of all these boxes, having so many of them and having them be so geometric lends itself nicely to what kind of experiment I was trying to create,” Andrew said.

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It was a performance you could not take your eyes off of, and every single member of the cast gave it their all. Through powerful booming Shakespearean monologues that shook the room to chilling whispers spoken in unison, the actors worked together to make sure the audience felt an array of intensity.

This show breaks the fourth wall numerous times, with one of the most notable moments in the show being actor Evan Janke abruptly running off the stage while the rest of the cast chasing and calling for him to come back. The off stage scene is captured on a Facebook Live stream that is played on stage showing Janke frantically running away.

“There’s three layers. There’s me Evan, who’s playing a character, then there’s an Actor who’s playing a character, Hamlet,” Janke said.

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Janke describes his experience playing such a multifaceted character. “I like to think the actor playing hamlet on his downtown likes to do graffiti on public walls,” Janke said, “So for me playing that character I have to wrestle with him almost as if he’s another entity, because for me to act that role I have to conform to the role, but when I’m trying to get into the mindset of someone who’s against conformity it’s hard to keep that going.”

Valerie McFatter who plays Ophelia in the Operatic era described her experience with her cast and the lengths they went for their performance in the scene Ophelia’s Convergence.

Ophelia’s Convergence.

Ophelia’s Convergence.

“All of the Ophelia’s come and they reveal the most vulnerable and raw versions of their psyche,” McFatter said. “The first time we did that scene everyone was crying and taken aback by how far they went.”

Maya Costanza said her favorite part of the show was being pushed out of her comfort zone. “I wanted to feel more comfortable with becoming uncomfortable, and I think this show has really pushed me there,” she said.

Catherine Tran, pictured above, played present Ophelia and was almost unable to perform in the show due to the government shutdown not processing her student visa while she was in Vietnam. She made it just in time for the performance.

Catherine Tran, pictured above, played present Ophelia and was almost unable to perform in the show due to the government shutdown not processing her student visa while she was in Vietnam. She made it just in time for the performance.

The show was a masterful and brand-new adaptation of HamletMachine. Fans of theater, music, and really cool lighting work will all have something to appreciate from this show. No matter what you love this show will fascinate you. “It’s a little tricky to follow, but once you get it you get it,” Costanza said.

HamletMachine is showing in the Katzen Studio Theater Friday Feb 22 at 8p.m, and Saturday Feb 23 at 2 p.m and 8p.m. Tickets can be purchased here.