MELO/DRAMA, OR THE TRAGEDY OF HAMNET, written and directed by Mark Christmann, with Christmann and Gray Powell. Presented by the Believer Project at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse. May 31-June 3. Rating: NNN
There's nothing rotten in Melo/Drama, the latest workshop from Mark Christmann's Believer Project, that a little philosophical clowning won't fix. Inspired by Hamlet, Christmann creates a ruminating "memory priest, a living archive" who precisely recalls every item in his history. He's a man less caught up with killing a king than with polishing the pebbles of his past.
With the outside eye of choreographer/collaborator Robert Desrosiers, Christmann dwells on slick, humorous movement as well as unexpected musings -- his "To be or not to be" speech deals with French fries. Using tags of Shakespeare, Cathy Nosaty's score, Kim Purtell's expressive lighting and a life-size-puppet body double who becomes an alter ego, the performer conjures up a Hamnet troubled by family politics and plots. Like the Bard's play, which deals with various meanings of what it is to act, this new piece reflects on the precarious state of the performer.
Comedy, charm and strong staging are the work's driving forces, though the material still needs tightening -- a guitar-accompanied song, for instance, could easily disappear. But Christmann knows how to woo an audience and, along with Gray Powell as Hamnet's mostly silent servant, takes us into an entertaining vaudevillian world whose images and themes keep turning