Theatre in the Park recently closed their three week run of Ira David Wood III’s Devon Does Denmark. The charming show received its world premiere as a “Royal Farce” for Theatre in the Park’s faithful patrons. As directed by Ira David Wood III, the farce came to life with slap-stick humor abound. Not intended for children, the play made its stab at Prince Hamlet’s Mommy issues, at Queen Gertrude’s promiscuity, and at many more highly studied characters from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Devon Does Denmark is written from the perspective of the Devon Players – the actors who performed in court to “catch the conscience of the king” – before Hamlet was penned.  

While the humor was pushed almost too far at times, the finale – the death scene – was by far the best written and best performed of all the scenes. As all the plots intersected and the story climaxed, hilarity followed every line. I imagine it could be funny for audience members who didn’t have prior knowledge of Hamlet, but I doubt you could catch the innuendos and asides that made the piece so fulfilling. The story – presented from the perspective of the Devon Players – showed how the characters of Hamlet interacted with people outside of court before Shakespeare wrote the drama based on their lives. Ira David Wood IV’s portrayal of Hamlet captured exactly how every person has ever made fun of the Danish prince, making him moody, emotional, and bratty.

The portrayal of Claudius was equally as fulfilling. Played by Michael Joseph Murray, Claudius spoke in a high-pitched voice and projected a speech-impediment – he replaced the “L” sound with a “W” sound. Dressed in a regal robe, with a perfectly combed shoulder length golden wig and dark beard, and with a golden crown affixed upon his head, imagine him saying “Kill Hamlet” or “Challenge Hamlet” while replacing the “L’s” You can’t keep a straight-face.  Such minor things throughout the entire farce gave new depth to the characters while fulfilling every expectation you had ever had for them. The Devon Players were played by four actors who created an ensemble among themselves as well as with the larger cast.

The production was smooth and operated like a well-oiled machine. The scenic elements were sparse, but the variety of entrances and exits stayed true to the farcical nature. The cast, under the direction of Ira David Wood III, brought to life a new play that will hopefully be revived in seasons to come.