The Tiny Ninja Theater’s delightful multimedia production of Hamlet, currently playing at Manbites Dog Theater as part of MBT’s Other Voices Series, is a unique theatrical experience, and not to be missed. TNT director Dov Weinstein, who founded this world-famous puppet theater in 1999 in New York City, proves himself to be a man of a thousand voices as he speaks and performs the roles of all the characters in this fascinating 50-minute version of Elizabethan and Jacobean playwright William Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy about murder, incest, and revenge.
Employing a cast of inch-high plastic ninjas and other dime-store action figures, and skillfully using video cameras and projection screens to enhance the intimacy of the performance and expand the scope of this epic tragedy, Weinstein washes the dirty royal linen of medieval Denmark with remarkable gusto, transforming the Immortal Bard’s tragic masterpiece into a black comedy.
At the outset of the show, ninjas man the walls of the royal palace in Elsinore and tremble as they witness the Ghost of Hamlet’s father in the red-lit opening scene. When the melancholy Dane heeds reports of the royal guards and his friend Horatio, and mounts the palace walls at midnight to confront the supernatural intruder, the black-clad ninja who plays Hamlet makes his grand entrance — in a video close-up — emerging from the bearded mouth of Dov Weinstein — which becomes the mouth of the Ghost and informs Hamlet that his brother and successor murdered him to steal his crown and marry his wife.
Derek Smile and Mrs. Smile — two happy-face action figures a la the giant Pillsbury Dough Boy figure in the movie Ghostbusters — play treacherous King Claudius and his wife Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother; and Daphne Hipchikz plays poor Ophelia, whose drowning in a water glass is one of this pixilated performance’s funniest moments.
Other highlights include the play-within-the-play scene, where a great big ear substitutes for the sleeping king murdered when poison is poured in his ear; and the climactic duel between Hamlet and a lisping Laertes. Furious that his former friend killed his father and drove his sister to suicide, Laertes goes after Hamlet with a poisoned fencing foil; and Weinstein makes this scene up close and personal by holding a ninja and a tiny video camera in each hand, so the audience can witness the duel on the left and right video screens from the perspective of each participant.
Tiny Ninja Theater’s presentation of Hamlet is a must-see comedy. To reveal much more would spoil the fun. Buy your tickets today, because seating is limited and this show is subject to sellouts.
Manbites Dog Theater presents the Tiny Ninja Theater production of Hamlet Thursday, Dec. 8, at 8:15 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 10, at 8:15 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 11, at 3:15 p.m. at 703 Foster St., Durham, North Carolina. $15. 919/682-3343 or via tix.com at the presenter's site. Manbites Dog Theater: http://www.manbitesdogtheater.org/146/. Tiny Ninja Theater: http://www.tinyninjatheater.com/.