Hamlet Goes Steampunk at AB Tech

AB Tech's Hamlet

Okay, I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’m not a Hamlet person– or a Shakespeare person at all, really. I’ll be flogged in effigy by many of my peers for saying so, but having been immersed in the Bard during middle school seems to have left me decidedly “meh” on the whole subject.

Still, when I heard that AB Tech was planning to do a steampunk version of the play, my interest was piqued. When I found out that Moog Music was behind the sound design, headed up by the guys who brought us last year’s killer new soundtrack to the original Night of the Living Dead, I knew I had to check it out.

The play itself, under the more than competent direction of Peter Carver, is by far the most entertaining rendition I’ve seen. Carver cast Hayley Karbowski in the lead, an edgy move considering that he made no move to feminize the script nor turn young Hamlet into a more androgynous character. This is simply a chick playing Hamlet as written, and it works. I was a little unsure about Karbowski in the role at first, but as the play went on I realized that she managed to bring to life the character as I’ve always seen him: melodramatic, perhaps a bit emo, but with a sharp wit that makes him likable nonetheless. Allison Stinson is perfectly cast as Gertrude, and Ken Knight actually made me laugh out loud (not an easy thing to to) with his spot-on portrayal of the annoyingly verbose Polonius. Although all of the actors performed well, Alison Tippin impressed me more than anyone else as an intense yet understated Fortinbras.

AB Tech’s Hamlet is performed in a small lecture hall, without much room for elaborate set design. To remedy this, scenes of the Biltmore Estate and grounds are projected onto the walls behind the stage. Scenes of the ghost are expertly projected around the room, adding to the play’s overall eerie vibe, and the play-within-a-play alone, shot as an old black-and-white film, makes the whole thing worth seeing.

The play is driven by an intense and ethereal soundtrack created by Anthony Dorion. He and thereminist Chris Tanfield add live effects to the pre-recorded music, which includes appearances by members of Silver Machine, Space Medicine and Asian Teacher Factory, as well as Syracuse, NY singer-songwriter Mike Davis. The result is an undefinable mix of modern and classical music, the perfect backdrop for this innovative stage production.

AB Tech’s Hamlet runs approximately two and a half hours, with a fifteen-minute intermission, although I have to say it doesn’t feel that long. It’s an easy play to sit through; I did more than once and will likely see another performance before the final night. Tickets are $5 for AB Tech students, $10 for all other students and $15 for the general public– a small price to pay for such a well-done production. See it at Simpson Hall at 7:30 pm, May 1-4. For more information, click on the flyer above.

April Fox is a teacher and freelance writer in Asheville. If you’re interested in more from her warped little head, follow her blog or find her on Facebook.