If you have an obsession with Hamlet that comes close to Michael’s, this is definitely a production for you.
Michael is a neurotic actor with twin fixations: Hamlet, in any artefact or context, and finding his mother. The two come together when he is offered a diary kept by an actress who played Ophelia around the time of his birth. Within it she relates giving up her child for adoption; the date being Michael’s birthday. The journal comes complete with the name Anna May Miller. A telephone call to directory enquiries provides her address. Now prepare for more suspension of disbelief. Michael just happens to be passing a bar in the neighbourhood one night when he sees a drunken woman being thrown out. Of course she turns out to be the writer of the diary. Does she or does she not turn out also to be his mother? Yet again ‘the play's the thing’. Michael somehow pulls a production of Hamlet out of the air and persuades the retired actress to audition for the part of Hamlet’s mother. At this point your Oedipan imagination can run riot.
Writer/performer Michael Laurence takes on the role of Michael with creepy relish. His lank figure and almost swallowing of the microphone at times give him the appearance of a feeble Mick Jagger strutting his stuff. But it is Annette O’Toole’s delineating performance of the many aspects of Anna’s life that captivates. Her famous hair is as striking as ever, and she commands the stage with voice and pose in a costume that is striking, if a little fetishly disarming.
The darkness of it all is confirmed by the gloomy staging with mood lighting and spots for the monologues. The pair of mattresses tied together in the centre are important as MIchael believes Shakespeare probably had hang-ups similar to his own and constructed the whole play around the bedroom scene which he uses as the audition piece.
If you have an obsession with Hamlet that comes close to Michael’s, this is definitely a production for you. Otherwise, as Michael says, you might just regard the whole play as a ‘Freudian slip’.