BWW Review: 12 OPHELIAS (A Play With Broken Songs) at UT's Oscar G. Brockett Theatre
Caridad Svich gives Ophelia a second chance at life in the modern beautiful play 12 OPHELIAS (A Play With Broken Songs). This time she seizes life with an inner strength that we always wished she had.
Shakespeare's Ophelia rises up out of the water to find herself in a neo-Elizabethan world where Gertrude runs a brother, Hamlet is known as Rude Boy, and nothing is what it seems.
A resurrected Ophelia, finds herself in an Appalachian setting and is as confused as the audience, because she can remember her old life but can't reconcile it with her new reality. There is a pull in her to follow the same path as before and reconnect with Hamlet, now Rude Boy. She believes she still has to do what she is told, to fit other people's needs. However, this new Ophelia has a strength inside that fights its way to the surface throughout the play. We can see the struggle in every decision she makes, we can hear it in the chorus of Ophelias as they speak her mind. Finally, Svich's Ophelia gives the Shakespearean ingenue the destiny that modern women always wanted, a life of her own.
Elizabeth George as Ophelia, gives this known character a new depth that is worth watching develop on stage. Ms. George transforms from a girl that wants to please to a woman that can stand on her own. Ophelia goes through a journey of self-discovery that leads her to understanding that she does not want to be just her father's daughter, her lover's lover, or her child's mother. She wants to be her own person and forge her own path in life. Ms. George is flawless in every scene and the chemistry between her and Mr. Hudson is delightful and real.
Tanner Hudson portrays Rude Boy (Hamlet) with a sexy cockiness that exudes the confidence of a young prince. Rude Boy is dealing with his own personal demons. He has a torturous need to be loved that is rooted in a long history of parental abuse. He adopted his "bad boy" persona to hide his true pain. Isn't that true for all bullies and bad boys? Mr. Hudson's torn man performance may earn Hamlet redemption after all.
Ashley Bowen is a powerful Gertrude. Strong, confident, very contrasting to the previous version of herself, she depicts an image of a mighty woman that does what it takes to survive.
In the style of greek tragedy, Ophelia is followed by her own chorus of Ophelias. At many times throughout the play, the chorus speaks her mind, representing her memories, her fears, her desires. Towards the end of the play, the chorus reminds us and the heroine of the story, that sometimes growing up and becoming whole require us to overcome the pain of life.
A beautiful set designed by Chris Conrad, transports audiences to the Appalachian mountains. The atmosphere in the theatre is enchanting, complete with a backdrop screen that provides a whimsical addition to the narrative and an upside tree that tells us that this world is not all it seems to be.
Director Jess Shoemaker, conveys the themes of the play with masterful creativity. From playful battles of words to sexually charged contemporary choreography, Shoemaker addresses the concept that love is not about surrendering who we are but rather being true to ourselves. There is an inherent power to the story that is only stronger as written and directed by women. In the era of the #metoo movement and a year when a female director won the Tony Award (Rachel Chavkin, Hadestown), it is refreshing to see one of Shakespeare's beloved characters redefined from a woman's perspective. An imaginative twist of fate and the purity of female strength, give Ophelia the path that the original play could have never imagined.
With punk-rock undertones provided by ingenious costume designer Delena Bradley, 12 OPHELIAS (A Play With Broken Songs), empowers female characters, subdues bad boys, and engulfs us all in a new version of a story that we always loved to hate.
12 OPHELIAS (A Play With Broken Songs) now playing at Oscar G. Brockett Theatre (300 E. 23rd, UT campus) through October 13, 2019
Book: Caridad Svich
Lyrics: Caridad Svich
Music: Carolina Lopez
Directed for UT by Jess Shoemaker
Video Credit: University of Texas, Austin. Department of Theatre and Dance