Scholars have teased out new layers in Shakespeare's tragedy for 400 years. A new company, L'Enfant Terrible, compresses it into a 45-minute matinee for the kiddies a bold choice for a play with dead dads, rotten stepdads, treacherous wives, drowned girlfriends, accidental stabbings and a pile of corpses at the grand finale. Writer Angela Berliner has kept the traumas but translated them into kid-speak. Here, Hamlet (Brian Kimmet) hisses to Gertrude (Natasha Midgley), "Frailty, thy name is mommy," encourages the crowd to boo Claudius (Nathan Kornelis) and, when he damns Ophelia (Berliner) to a nunnery, adds the aside, "That's where bad girls go when they need a time-out." Justin Zsebe's high-octane direction and Ann Closs-Farley's bright costumes turn the play into a circus, and playful touches like having the murdered Polonius (Nicol Razon) curl up like a dead fly keep the death from being too death-y. With these clowns bopping around and spouting rapid-fire Shakespearese, the kids were transfixed at the performance I attended, even if they didn't know why. Hamlet's play-within-a-play staged with finger puppets tries to catch them up to speed, but when all else failed and a child in the second row called out, "Why?" Hamlet patiently paused, turned and explained, "I'm having a hard time." Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Sat., noon; thru Oct. 30. (213) 389-3856. A L'Enfant Terrible production.
Saturdays, noon. Starts: Sept. 25. Continues through Oct. 30, 2010