Friday, May 31, 2013

Bard. James Bard.

Daniel Jones as Hamlet/Bond.
It's hard not to like John J. King's From Denmark with Love (through this weekend only at the Boston Playwrights' Theatre) - just as it's hard not to like the playwright himself, an infectiously friendly mainstay of the local scene (and, full disclosure, a friend of the Hub Review).

Like its writer, the show itself - a free-wheeling mash-up of Hamlet and the entire James Bond canon - is often the theatrical equivalent of a puppy: endlessly energetic, always ready for fun, and usually more than a little horny. Indeed, if you're the type to be offended by hearing a line like "O, that this too, too solid flesh would melt . . ." directed to a rigid feature of the male anatomy - well, then this is not the show for you.

So you've been warned!  On the other hand, if ironically "tasteless" sexual innuendo IS your cup of tea, then you'll be glad to hear that in From Denmark with Love, Hamlet's flesh is too-too solid practically 24/7; and his Mommy issues are hardly latent, either.  Ophelia is likewise hot-to-trot, Gertrude's always up for a roll in the hay, and as Claudius speaks with the crass accent of Arnold Schwarzenegger, you know what's always on his mind.  As a result, it seems all these characters are constantly struggling into or out of a kilt, thong, or something even skimpier as they scamper through vignettes from Goldfinger, The Spy Who Loved Me, Dr. No, and . . . well, you get the idea.

Beyond that, I couldn't tell you much more about King's "plot" - frankly, it's so convoluted I couldn't follow it half the time; and most of the turning points are shouted in a thick Scottish burr, anyhow - I guess because Sean Connery is Scottish? Who knows; luckily the accent work is broad yet hilariously precise - particularly when the versatile Daniel Jones (who plays both Hamlet and Claudius, so at the climax offs himself) is responsible for it.  And if you're lost, you can always kind of figure out where you are by simply tracking the skits against Shakespeare's play (which, despite everything, the show roughly follows).

To be honest, I still felt Mr. King could have cut a good fifteen minutes from his script and it would only have come off as sharper and funnier; at over an hour and a half, it's almost too much of a good thing. (But then Hamlet's too long too, isn't it.)  And the cast in general (and Brett Milanowski in particular) could have shouted a little bit less; louder isn't always funnier.  Although maybe they were hollering simply to keep themselves pumped for the relentless action, which was non-stop, and wittily choreographed (I think) by Meron Langsner Angel Aguilar Veza. And even when the double entendres had gotten a little tired, a clever bit of physical business would often strike me as hilarious. The parody of the requisite Maurice Binder title sequence (all you need, it turns out, is a scrim, a backlight, and a few cast members in their underwear) was unforgettable, and I got a big kick out of the way Q was always popping out of the woodwork, and the way Goldfinger's famous laser was here reduced to a laser pointer. A running gag in which Bond titles were worked into Shakespeare's blank verse was likewise inventive (yes, they even squeezed in Dr. No and Quantum of Solace), and Jones was matched in witty, self-aware stamina by the rest of the cast, which included Bob Mussett, Terrence Patrick Haddad (as "FortinJaws"), Bridgett Hayes, Janelle Mills, and Chelsea Schmidt.  Together these game farceurs knocked the living daylights out of both the Bard and Bond.

For Milanowski, Mills, and Jones, the Bard is not enough.


  1. While I'm glad to see The Hub Review acknowledge action choreography, I can't take credit for this one.

    This show was fight directed by my very talented former student (and frequent assistant fight director) Angel Aguilar Veza.

  2. I think fight direction was by "Bad Ass Mama" Angel Aguilar Veza, according to Vaquero Playground's website...