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a Comedy
by Jordan Pulliam

COMPANY : Essential Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
ID# 4321

SHOWING : July 18, 2012 - August 05, 2012



Bat-Hamlet by Jordan Pulliam, directed by Peter Hardy. What if Shakespeare had conceived the melancholy Dane as a costumed crimefighter?

The worlds of comic books and the Bard of Avon come together in this hilarious mash-up, a tale of murder and revenge, poetry and BAM! SOCK! POW!

Director Peter Hardy
Assistant Director Jessica Fern Hunt
Fight Choreography Emmett Furrow
Technical Director Chris Gilstrap
Scenic Design Robert Hadaway
Fight Choreography Jessica Fern Hunt
Costume Designer Jane Kroessig
Properties Design Kathy Manning
Stage Manager Shelby North
Sound Design Jon Summers
The Ghost Emmett Furrow
Lord Riddles Emmett Furrow
Fortinbras Emmett Furrow
The Puffin Aaron Gotlieb
Ophelia Kate Graham
Barbara Megan Hayes
Boss/Jape/Question Ashleigh Hoppe
Barney Ashleigh Hoppe
Gravedigger 2 Ashleigh Hoppe
Jester Stuart McDaniel
Hamlet Topher Payne
Horatio Lake Roberts
Mark Bob Smith
Lefty/Jest/Quiz Bob Smith
Gravedigger 1 Bob Smith
Laertes Kenneth Wigley
Jingle/Query Kenneth Wigley
New Guy Kenneth Wigley
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


The Bard and the Bat
by Dedalus
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Holy Mash-Ups, Gentle Readers! Who'd'a thunk a "Hamlet" parody drenched in the characters of "Batman" (the sixties TV parody, not the recent "Dark Knight" versions) would be the genesis of so much laughter? Decatur resident Jordan Pulliam has put together a confection of a play that made me laugh-out-loud more than any other this year.

Welcome to the Kingdom of Gothic, a modern day metropolis ruled by a just and kindly Police Commissioner. The Commissioner is murdered by the Jester, who assumes his crown, takes his daughter for a bride, and turns the city into a hotbed of crime and mayhem, sending the Commissioner's son Hamlet into a depressed tail spin. Faster than you can say BAM! POW! SPLAT!, Hamlet has become a cowled and caped crusading crime-fighter and his friend Horatio has become his sidekick, um, Songbird-Boy.

Most of the familiar characters from both worlds are here, the jester's advisor (the bird-obsessed "Puffin"), his children Ophelia and Laertes, "Riddles," the Gravediggers -- even other heroes from the DC universe step in with surprisingly silly but effective roles. Even the final orgy of death and destruction is grist for the comedy mill here.

In theory, this should work. After all, both the worlds of Shakespeare and Comic Books deal with over-the-top characters in extraordinary situations. Both deal in hyper-realistic, even poetic language. More to the point, both deal with characters who are obsessed, obsessed with love, with justice, with vengeance -- all those high-and-mighty lofties that rarely cross the paths of those of obsessed with the mere day-to-day banalities of making it to the weekend.

But what puts this particular mash-up over the top is the ensemble. As Bat-Hamlet, Topher Payne is a dim-bulb caricature, but he plays it with such straight-faced sincerity that you can't help but laugh. Playwright Pulliam has given him a plethora of tongue-twisting speeches that mangle Shakespeare with modern idiom. As an example, at one point, Hamlet just can't come up with the right word for what he's thinking, so he can only say "The play's the, um ,er, THING!" In other words, the play manages to poke fun at Shakespeare's vocabulary at the same time it's paying it homage.

I was also amused by Stuart McDaniel's Jester and Aaron Gotlieb's Puffin, both of whom are pure DC villains playing the roles of Claudius and Polonius, but have a grand old time being evil and layering their voices with all sorts of gimmicky mannerisms. Again, these are more Batman-parody villains, than Heath Ledger journeys to the Heart of Darkness, and, as such create a delightful juxtaposition with their darker Bardic antecedents.

Gertrude has been youthened to "Barbara," and Megan Hayes makes her a funny little nagging "sister" who eventually transforms into {Deleted by the Spoiler Police}. And the delightful Kate Graham makes Ophelia a mopey little he-never-loved-me cast-off, who has a super-heroine of her own ready to come out of the sewing closet. (Not to be too creepy, but both Ms. Hayes and Ms. Graham look GREAT when they trade in their gowns for spandex!)

As to the rest, Lake Roberts is a scream as the reluctant sidekick Songbird Boy, and Emmett Furrow, Kenneth Wigley, Bob Smith, and Ashleigh Hoppe do yeomen-duty, juggling about a thousand roles each. I have to add that Ms. Hoppe has a death scene (who was she and why does she die? Does it really matter?) that is especially grand and glorious, a thing of beauty and a joy to behold.

Yes, "Bat-Hamlet" fits practically the entire Hamlet story into its plot, so some may think it goes on for far too long. But, it is (and always has been) a grand and glorious story that, for me, never out-stayed its welcome. Some may also be disturbed by a comedy in which everybody {Deleted by the Spoiler Police, but if you know "Hamlet," you know what I'm saying, know what I mean?}s. I was not.

In fact, this is one of the funniest, silliest, laugh-out-loudingest plays I've seen in a while, peopled by one of the best ensembles I've seen in a while, and directed by Peter Hardy (who I actually have seen in a while).

What's not to love?


-- Brad Rudy (

It Works
by playgoer
Sunday, July 22, 2012
Jordan Pulliam's "Bat-Hamlet" melds Shakespeare's plot with pop culture references centering around TV's "Batman." While the plot tends to make the show a bit overlong, a lot of fun is injected along with the plot. It works.

The set, costumes, and props aren't lavish, but work extremely well for a limited budget. Rob Hardaway's scenic design consists of faux stone archways left and right, a matching rampart center, and a modernistic skyline in the background. Jane B. Kroessig's costume design melds medieval and comic book chic with a collection of bright and somber colors. Kathy Manning's props also bridge the gap between medieval and modern pop. The lighting design of Harley Gould does a fine job of suggesting different times and locales, with nice cyc effects.

The cast is uniformly good, which is usually the sign of superior direction (by Peter Hardy). Topher Payne plays his roles of Hamlet and the thinly disguised Bat-Hamlet with complete sincerity and fine comic timing. Lake Roberts, as his sidekick Horatio/Songbird Boy, adds to the sincere core. Megan Hayes, who plays the Gertrude-like character of Barbara, has little stage time, but provides an off-kilter camp interpretation. Stuart McDaniel, as the Claudius-like Jester, and Aaron Gotlieb, as the Penguin-like Puffin, are cast as over-the-top characters and ably straddle the line between comedy and believability. Kate Graham, as Ophelia, does a delightful job with all aspects of her character, hinting at a hang-dog depressiveness that goes in an unexpected direction as the show heads toward its action-filled finish. Emmett Furrow, Kenneth Wigley, Bob Smith, and Ashleigh Hoppe play a variety of roles and take place in the energetic stage combat that erupts at various points.

The actual words of Shakespeare show up from time to time, although often with a spin that whirls them in a comic direction. "The play's the thing," for instance, comes with hems and haws before the word "thing," as if Hamlet is trying to think of a more specific term. "Bat-Hamlet" plays it fairly safe in poking fun at Shakespeare, keeping the action relatable and recognizable while injecting moments of mayhem. It's not Shakespeare -- okay, well, maybe technically it is, in a way -- but it's good for a number of hearty laughs. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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