Hamlet: Now I am Alone, Folger Theatre

Kate Eastwood Norris, in the immortal words of Rod Stewart, have I told you lately that I love you? You charmed your way into my heart in the first play I saw after moving to DC in fall of 2005- a perfect Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing at the Folger. Then came She Stoops to Comedy at Woolly, and, well. Can I be blamed for quoting Sir Roderick?

So when I heard that Norris was performing a one-woman Hamlet as a workshop performance for two nights in May at the Folger, you better BELIEVE I knew I was going to be there. And gentle readers, she doesn't disappoint.

Far from it- as an adapter, Norris shows incredible insight into Shakespeare's most famous play. Distilling whole scenes into the perfect moments (I've never seen a better mad scene for Ophelia), she takes a sprawling text and turns it into just under 90 minutes that moves swiftly through the story without ever losing its clarity.

Because of course, this IS Kate Eastwood Norris we're talking about here. Not only does she understand the flow of this play, she has the mighty task of figuring out how to portray (almost) all of its characters, sharing the stage with herself over and over again. AND SHE DOES IT. I never questioned who she was from moment to moment, as Norris created distinct voices and physicalities for each character. It's a joy just to watch her transform over and over again before our eyes, but it's not just a protean exercise. Norris is a damn good actor in any circumstance, and her Hamlet puts many others I've seen to shame. She captures all the dichotomies of the Man in Black: the pain and the humor, the utter frankness and the craftiness that lesser actors have stumbled over.

There are also wonderful moments of inventiveness in this production. As Norris juggles simultaneously sharing the stage as Hamlet, Ophelia, Polonius, Gertrude, and Claudius during the play within the play, she's created a BRILLIANT device to both define and move between each character. I'd never spoil it for you, but trust me- it's worth the anticipation.

Honestly, you owe it to yourself to see this performance. In his introduction to the evening, Cody Nickell (who serves as co-director with Norris) explained that the night's performance remains a work in progress; it was, after all, the very first time H:NIAA had been performed for a paying audience. Honestly, I don't know what could be improved upon, but knowing the sheer talent of Norris, it wouldn't surprise me if the show got even better. You've only got one more chance to see this brilliant theatrical coup- Monday the 24th, 7:30PM at the Folger.



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