Theatre Preview: To gay or not to gay

By Sherri Shergill

Yay for gay. Or maybe not. Issues pertaining to homosexuality sweeps through the province, as everybody puts their two cents in. However you feel about the issue of gay marriage, Hidden Insanity Theatre brings the province Romeo and Hamlet, a comedy dealing with that very topic and the passionate opinions therein. Written and directed by Jonathan Chapman and Kevin Stefan, this eccentrically modified Shakespearian play takes these two familiar characters and throws them into a very contemporary dilemma.

It begins the way you expect–the young Romeo attends a ball where he falls desperately in love with the wrong person. Only this time it’s not with Juliet, but her fiancee, Hamlet.

While struggling with the apprehensions of their new found love, both men must survive their families, friends and Juliet, the ever suspicious bride-to-be who’s determined to utter “I do”.

Promising not to be preachy, Romeo and Hamlet contends with the subject of gay marriage and satirically explores the current issue of gay politics in Alberta.

“It’s embarrassing that we would, in our province, consider opting out of participation with our nation in order to avoid having to grant equal rights,” exclaims a frustrated Chapman. “The politics have become more important than the people.”

Similar to the Shakespearian approach, Chapman and Stefan have delivered a comedy barely concealing society’s politics. Chapman is eager to say the play does not force a particular belief, but it just so happens a majority of the offended are conservative politicians and that the premise focuses on the uneducated attitudes formed regarding the multiple areas of gay marriage. Those opinions are created out of fear and with no rational thinking involved, according to the play.

Finding it hard to portray these irrational stances in a comic setting, the creators decided to use Shakespeare’s characters to add humanity into the storyline.

And in Shakespearian style, many of these extreme characters have a fatal flaw allowing for a deeper understanding of a contentious issue.

“You can disagree with the play and still enjoy it. It’s still a fun parody of what Shakespeare does,” explains Chapman. “You can laugh about it, but at the same time it’s a sort of pathway into something that matters.”

As Chapman points out, Romeo and Hamlet is above all a comedy, but also relevant to the hyper political attitude of today’s society.

“[The play] is playing with everything everyone knows about Shakespeare and everything everyone knows is going on today,” states Chapman. “We ended with something that arrived at a critical point in our culture.”

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