This play leaves the viewer with a confused message. Something about the absurd nature of politics? The malleability of truth? This may be a fault of the script, but the production does not take a strong stance on any of these suggested meanings and instead results in confusion.
What is clear throughout the show is Ophelia’s (Celia Rivera) desire to be heard from beyond the grave. Rivera’s strong performance reveals an Ophelia many audiences have never seen before. She is fiery, determined, sexually self-possessed, and incredibly articulate. Rivera dominated her scenes, and, although the script did not always give her a lot to work with, she succeeds in making her presence known. Blessing’s reimagining of Ophelia, paired with Rivera’s grounded performance, is what makes this play most worth seeing.
The production was also strongest at its most absurd and comedic moments. Many of these were found in the sharp contrast between the energies of Rivera’s Ophelia and Melamed’s Fortinbras. When they are together onstage, it is clear Fortinbras will never have a chance with her. This is compared to the comically lust-driven repentances of Claudius (Michael Takla) and Gertrude (Ashley Busenlener), which reminds the audience that the story of “Hamlet” is ultimately the story of forbidden and repulsive love. Even the smaller roles of Marcellus (Drew Thomas-Nathan) and Barnardo (Jacob Litvack) are brilliantly performed; they manage to elicit laughter without uttering a word.
While "Fortinbras" may be a head-scratcher of a show, the production surely provides plenty of laughs and an infectious soundscape. Whether you leave befuddled, aching with laughter, or perhaps a combination both, you will not have suffered one minute of boredom.
Aeneid Theatre Company's Fortinbras runs until Sunday, February 3rd at the Massman Theatre. Tickets online are sold out, but there is a waitlist before each performance. For more information, click here.