“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” — Shakespeare’s Hamlet,
Act I, Scene IV
Picture this: It is 8 pm on a perfect June day. I am seated on risers in a lovely white room on lower Broadway. A perfectly composed contemporary kitchen and living room is artfully placed in the foreground. Sheer curtains stir in the mid-distance. The late evening sun begins to set. Golden rays of light stream through the frost-covered glass in the high arched windows. Yes, you heard that right. Frost — as in cold. I am at The Gallery at Access Theatre, and the setting before me is a family’s beach house in the winter. Harper, a young woman (Adriane Moreno), and Mason, her older lover (Jonathan Wilde), have had a fight. What was left of the sun slowly vanishes and the room takes on the icy chill of a relationship in trouble — and that’s only the beginning. Denmark, the fantastic play by Matthew Gasda, presents an anguished look at human dynamics in a dysfunctional marriage, family and relationship. The tension builds throughout the play as secrets emerge, along with accusations and unmet desires — all to a dramatic and devastating finale. According to producer, Kim Sweet, the underlying themes of the play were inspired by those in Hamlet. I can see the connection, and what is fantastic about the inspiration for this play is that it is no way derivative. These are universal human themes and they are shown here in a brilliantly acted and believable modern setting. As the evening progressed, I observed fellow audience members literally moving forward in their seats. As the anxiety on stage heightened between Harper’s parents (played very convincingly by Brian McCormack and Katherine Wessling), I even held my breath. Thankfully, the character of Harper’s brother, Ryan — played hilariously by PJ Adzima — kept the humor in the rapidly deteriorating situation. As we were leaving, I overheard a theater-goer say: “They almost make me feel normal.” I understood exactly what she meant, but I most definitely felt empathy for the characters and their struggles. Something was rotten in the state of Denmark, indeed, and none of us are immune to these kinds of feelings — that is, if we were to be totally honest about it.