Raving Mad

Shakespeare by the Sea

Raving MadTen years ago Kevin Crawford helped found Palm Beach County's annual Shakespeare by the Sea festival, the prevailing mission of which is to present classic plays, mainly those penned by the Bard. But that definitely doesn't mean stodgy versions featuring powdered-wigged maidens and men in tights. How about Hamlet in leather instead? The movie industry has certainly caught on to the concept of updating comedies and tragedies for mass consumption, but Crawford's adaptation of this tortured tale is neither cinematic nor derivative. Hamlet is Hamlet. Everyone still ends up dead at the end. Actors still deliver famous lines like "To be or not to be." Hamlet is mad, Ophelia goes mad, but in this version, they are raving mad.Yep. Hamlet will deliver monologues to a soundtrack of electronic dance music by groups like Delirium and Expansion Union. And why not? There's no reason why Hamlet can't plunge into the psychological depths of double-entendre and still get his groove on. Crawford, who believes innovation is the best form of preservation, promises a show full of surprises, but he confesses to knowing little about techno music. He was, however, inspired by it: When he heard the opening music to the movie Blade, he thought, "Why not do Hamlet to this kind of music?" He adds: "I think music is crucial in defining the mood of a show. I focus as much on the musical aspects as I do the theatrical ones."

In Crawford's Hamlet, the music isn't the only surprise. Costuming will also be all the rave; Eurotique, a boutique specializing in imported little treasures, donated the cast's seductive and stylish wardrobe. Imagine Ophelia going crazy in a velvet minidress with a low Guinevere neckline. And Hamlet in leather pants. As Crawford points out, the contemporary costuming is actually true to Shakespeare's form: "When Shakespeare [-era troupes] performed Julius Caesar, they didn't wear togas. They wore clothes of their own time period."

Hamlet is an exciting revenge tragedy that addresses the corrupting influence of power and the nature of betrayal, and this rendition remains true to the text. But the contemporary look helps put the play's themes into tighter focus, according to Crawford.

The setting, too, will be contemporary metropolitan, and the casting features some interesting gender bending. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, for example, are cast as women -- old lovers from college. And Ophelia's role might play out just a bit more sexually. We'll just wait to see what happens in the bed-tousling scene with Mom.

The music and costume innovations add dimension, but don't worry, this is still the Hamlet we love to watch hate himself. And what could be more fitting in a town called Jupiter -- named after the Roman god who was both the brother and husband of the goddess Juno -- than a Hamlet who thrashes and wrestles with his oedipal obsessions to cathartic dance music?

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Mia Leonin