Who knew tragedy could be so funny? The theater company of Sweet Tea Shakespeare did. Imagine if Shakespeare and Monty Python had a child, who was now a teenager; now you have a glimpse into the hilarious, interactive performance of “HamLIT.” You definitely don’t want to be caught taking a drink while you’re enjoying the show, or do you? You may be “voluntold” if you don’t volunteer to be a part of the drinking games in the first and the second act. “HamLIT” premiered at the Fayetteville Dinner Theatre Sept. 27 and 28 and will play at different venues through Nov. 9.
The evening began with musician Dean Dibling leading the cast members in a few modern tunes to help get the audience in the right mood. Brandon Bryan, who plays Polonius, asked for the audience’s input for his monologue that he would perform later. It’s a sort of vocal Mad Libs group project. This led to an interesting, adult humor monologue that had the audience literally laughing out loud.
Mary Gainer Mariyampillai is Ophelia and has incredible chemistry with Jacqueline Nunweiler, who plays Ophelia’s brother, Laertes. The blocking of their scenes and the dynamic in their relationship shows the audience the depths of each character’s personal struggles. At the same time, the two expose the comedy within the tragedy of their roles.
Codirector Traycie Zapata plays Gertrude. Let’s just say if there was a “Real Housewives of HamLIT,” she would be running the show. Traycie engages the audience members in a way that makes you feel as though you alone are meant to be a part of the show. While at the same time, you are there to be entertained. However, her role is not complete without Claudius.
Nathan Pearce, also a codirector, plays the roles of Claudius and The Ghost, who is Hamlet’s dead father. Nathan brings The Ghost to life with charm and wit. In his role as Claudius, he comes right to you. Really. He’ll sit right at your table, eat your cake, or your popcorn, or even hide behind you. He almost flutters about the audience while still weaving ideas of destruction to Hamlet and Laertes. The audience was so busy laughing at his ability to do this that we wanted to have disdain for him, but couldn’t.
Nelson Soliva plays the role of Horatio, Hamlet’s Fortnite buddy and best friend. He’s also the friend who isn’t always down for the bad ideas but loves the latest royalty gossip — mostly because he delivers an occasional news broadcast of the recent gossip to the audience.
And finally, Taj Allen, codirector and Hamlet himself. Taj makes the role of Hamlet appear not only natural but eloquent and hilarious. If both can exist as one, they definitely do with him. The audience feels Hamlet’s pain of losing his father but also sees how dimwitted Hamlet’s choices and behavior are, leading him down a path of self-destruction.
Sweet Tea Shakespeare takes a classic story, adds impeccable improv, drinking games and audience interaction, for a night of memorable entertainment. Visit www.sweeteashakespear.com for tickets and information.