Arts theater review

Hamilton, I don’t think we’re in 1776 anymore

The Shakespeare Ensemble presents a mashup of Hamlet and Hamilton — in just 24 hours

What happens when Alexander Hamilton is suddenly thrust into fourteenth-century Denmark? Well, you may get something like Hamlet-on. Produced by the MIT Shakespeare Ensemble, Hamlet-on sports a cast of characters hilariously off-kilter from their canon counterparts. The production, completely written and rehearsed in 24 hours, is a mashup of William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s wildly popular musical Hamilton. This in itself is enough to make the average show-goer’s ears perk up, but this 24-hour show’s real charm is in its scrappy feel. Thrown together in just a day, it’s not going to take itself too seriously — the audience is in for a laugh.

After King Hamlet’s mysterious death, Prince Hamlet (Raine Hasskew ’17) finds himself at quite a loss. When he discovers that his father was murdered by the new king, his uncle Claudius (Peter Duerst ’18), Hamlet’s mental state begins to deteriorate rapidly. His sanity only deteriorates as his best friend Horatio (Amir Farhat ’20) turns out to be no more than an irritable grump, his sock-puppet play turns out terribly unappreciated, he accidentally kills his girlfriend’s father Polonius (Sofia Ayala ’19) after mistaking the latter for an owl, and the late king incessantly bobs on-stage in ghost-form (or better put, “sock-form”) to urge him to take vengeance on his uncle.

As if things weren’t bad enough, Alexander Hamilton (Amelia Smith ’17) makes his appearance in 14th-century Denmark — and steals Hamlet’s girlfriend, Ophelia (Robert Thorpe ’18). But Hamlet isn’t yet so lost in insanity that he would just sit back and allow another man to steal his girl. The pair breaks out their manly voices and engages in a tense “duel-et” of the Hamilton duet “Your Obedient Servant.” The two then agree to duel for real, which King Claudius seizes as an opportunity to get rid of his nihilistic nephew once and for all. In the true spirit of a Shakespearean tragedy, everyone dies gruesomely at the end, no need for details.

Overall, Hamlet-on was a grand success. The characters meshed with impeccable comedic chemistry, and the script was packed with hilariously meta asides that made the audience feel they were in on the joke. Interspersed throughout the play were musical parodies of songs from the Hamilton musical soundtrack, including “Wait For It” and “Your Obedient Servant.” The audience was packed so full that many had to stand, and some eager show-goers even had to be turned away at the door. In the future, the Shakespeare Ensemble will definitely need a larger “Room Where it Happens” to accommodate the avid fans waiting at the door.

So, Shakespeare Ensemble, “What Comes Next?”

The show was written by playwrights Megan Goodell ’19, Hadrian Merced ’20, Lizzie Parizh ’17, Amelia Smith ’17, and Kaylee Brent ’17 within a meager 12-hour time frame beginning at 8 p.m. on Saturday, September 3; rehearsed in the 12 hours that followed; and performed at 8 p.m. on Sunday, September 4.