By John Farrell
By most accounts, Hamlet is the greatest play in English.
In its more than 400 years on the stage it has spun out many sequels, including the well-known Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.
Fortinbras by Lee Blessing is a less rigorous but very funny tale which takes up where Hamlet leaves off, with Fortinbras the new king and dead bodies scattered about the stage. In a new production at the Kentwood Players, directed with a sharp eye for comedy by Drew Fitzsimmons, it has all the laughs that Hamlet doesn’t, and more than a little commentary on the realpolitik of royal Denmark.
Brendan Farrell (no relationship to the writers) is Fortinbras, the prince who is the only one left standing at Hamlet’s end and who is more than willing to become king. But he doesn’t want Hamlet’s story, complex and unbelievable, so he creates his own about Polish spies and murder. Horatio, (Rowan Russell) Hamlet’s best friend and confidant, doesn’t want to lie, but he is forced into it as Fortinbras takes command.
But there are the ghosts to contend with: the very attractive ghost of Ophelia (played in her underwear by the strikingly attractive Amanda Majkrzak) who Fortinbras ends up sleeping with, Hamlet himself (John Charles Meyer) and virtually everyone else who was dead at the end of the play Hamlet.
Fortinbras wants to be king, but the problems that he faces are more than he allowed for. He wants peace, but finds himself as nominal head of an army that conquerors much of the known world without a fight. He wouldn’t mind having fun in bed with either of the Polish maidens who are (inexplicably) at the court but the hauntings, from Polonius (the curiously silent but soon talkative Andy Kallok) and Laertes (Michael Sandidge) makes the castle impossible to live in.
Fortinbras relies on situations for its comedy. And, if at times the situations seem a bit far-fetched, well, Hamlet has plenty of far-fetched situations, and Fortinbras just builds on those. Farrell is very much a modern man, in language and action, and he thinks a big lie will placate the people. The people, perhaps, but not the ghosts. The future he is living in isn’t quite ready for him.
Fortinbras is good, clean fun. (Well, not too clean: Kentwood has put up a warning about adult situations.) It will give you some laughs and doesn’t harm Hamlet at all.
Tickets are $18, and $16 for students, seniors and military members.
Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with 2 p.m. Sunday shows through Dec. 15.
Details: (310) 645-5156; www.kentwoodplayers.org
Venue: Westchester Playhouse
Location: 8301 Hindry Ave., Los Angeles