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|A CurtainUp Review
Tiny Ninja Hamlet
By Jenny Sandman
It's one of the most inventive shows I've ever seen. Using televisions, small pin lights and smaller cameras, the tiny plastic world is writ large for the audience. The figures (mostly ninjas, but there are other sorts of figurines) are moved about on three briefcase-size stages. Weinstein provides all the voices, and by manipulating the lights and camera angles, introduces an unexpected element of surprise in the staging. There are several genuinely charming moments, as when Ophelia drowns by being dropped in a glass of water.
The television monitors are a saving grace for without them it would be difficult to near impossible to follow the action of the tiny figures. Weinstein does an excellent job of maneuvering the ninjas, and of providing clear, distinct voices for each one even though each is no more than an inch tall. The multimedia elements make for subtleties probably not present in previous Ninja Shakespeare productions and keep the concept fresh and daring.
Appropriately, the text has been severely truncated, down to 45 minutes. And interestingly, Weinstein chose to use the so-called Bad Quarto of 1603 (most readers are familiar with the First Folio 1623 edition of the play). Probably reconstructed from memory by one of the play's actors, the Bad Quarto differs in many ways from the more familiar versions of Hamlet. Some of the character names are different, the ghost of Hamlet's father appears in the scene between Hamlet and his mother. The ending is also slightly changed. In a show that's all about perspective, Weinstein's choice of text is yet another new perspective on the melancholy Dane.
As stated in the quote at the top of this review, Tiny Ninja Theater Company was based on the premise that "there are no small parts, only small actors." Following on the successes of their Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth, Hamlet is a winner. It's a funny, enchanting way to spend 45 minutes. It's also suitable and priced right for a family outing though ideally, the kids should be old enough to understand the Shakespearean language.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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