This farcical world created by The All Puppet Players in their production of Hamlet Has No Legs is adulterated hilarity influenced by The Muppet Show and intermingled with improv.
Guildenstern (Nathan Makaryk), a large-beaked bird and Rosencrantz (Shaun Michael McNamara), a long-faced man with glasses, reminiscent of Beaker, inform the audience that much of the play has been cut out (though the complete synopsis remains). This comic relief side show already has the audience in hysterics with belly laughing and high-pitched squeals. Guildenstern and Rosencrantz go on much like the judges did in The Muppet Show. Perched in the balcony, they say, “You won’t hear phrases such as ‘neither a borrower nor a lender be.’” The audience laughs as the puppets shake their heads and explain that in this economy it would be insensitive to leave that phrase in. The show delivers more of the same until the bitter end when everyone dies. Rather, every puppet dies a melodramatic death.
Puppets add a new dimension to the costume category. Guildenstern and Rosencrantz are behind props as expected, but the rest of the puppets are seen with the actors. All the actors are suited up in what resembles black fencing gear. The curtains and floor are black so that the actors fade and the eyes follow the puppets. One hand controls the mouth and the other hand controls one of the puppet’s hands. Danny Montooth, who plays an orangutan-looking Horatio, is also the puppet trainer, which must have been like herding cats or ninja kitties. Ten guards are swapped out for ninja kitties made out of black gloves with glued-on pink and white features. As five actors file out making marching sounds, they hold up their kitten gloves. One kitty has only one eye, while another kitty has a tag left on.
In the program next to Nathan Makaryk’s name it reads: Laertes, Polonius, Bernardo, Guildenstern and Combat Choreographer. Combat on stage makes for great theater, but with puppets it is intriguing and curious. What can you expect with combating puppets? Ridiculously funny is what you can expect. Laertes (Makaryk) and Hamlet (McNamara) warm up with plastic swords, whipping them around. McNamara gets the sword all spun up for a silly scuffle. As the play calls for a change of rapiers, the second actors come in to control the second hand of the two puppets (indicating drama) while the sword is changed to a metal one for a battle Matrix style.
The mastermind behind Hamlet Has No Legs is the founder of The All Puppet Players (www.allpuppetplayers.com), Shaun Michael McNamara, who directed the show and played a Cookie Monster-looking Hamlet and nerdy Rosencrantz. McNamara takes the funny seriously as he and other actors milk every scene. He directs the puppets to hang on to curtains, for puppets to take off without their counterpart, and to die (over-the-top) melodramatic deaths, adding to the jocularity. Ophelia (Amber Luallen) breathes her last breath again and again and again, inching her way to the audience. In another scene Hamlet (McNamara) exits quoting The Muppets Show’s “It’s time to get things started,” in Shakespearean style. McNamara has a lady in the front row hold a dagger, but then takes it back because “You look too scary with that.” Also, he tries to get the same lady to hold a tiny skull of the King’s jester, but she refuses, and McNamara yells, “Take it! Take it!” This hammy Hamlet engages the audience.
The cast also includes Marcellus (Andrew “Rocky” Balboa), Claudius (Glenn Freeze), Gertrude (Kalinda Gray), Player King (Evan Green) and lastly Player Queen (Rochelle Pospisil) at the Maverick Theater set in revitalized downtown Fullerton, across the street from the train depot, surrounded by newer stucco row townhomes and businesses. Enjoy this edgy and hilarious re-visioning of Hamlet in a 48-seat theater and have a drink in an Art Deco style 48-seat cabaret.