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Fortinbras Gets Drunk

The 15-member company exuberantly chews up every square inch of the limited Fountainhead stage as they expose the political shenanigans of Norwegian Chancellor Sternborg (Thomas Tofel) and his henchman Eight Eyes (Robert Clendenin).

With:
Fortinbras ... Andrew Shaifer Sternborg ... Thomas Tofel Eight Eyes ... Robert Clendenin Guard I ... Lisa Smith Guard II ... Suzanne Krull Mortinbras ... Matthew Sheehan Dagny Borg ... Amy Goddard Hamlet ... Ron Livingston Polonius ... Spencer Beglarian Ghost of Hamlet's father ... Paul Sarnoff Food taster ... Steve Rosenbaum Finnish delegate ... Alejandro Patino Laertes ... Matthew Glave Osric ... Peter Guttmacher Queen Gertrude ... Lucy Marlow Polish playwright Janusz Glowacki focuses on Fortinbras, a minor character in Shakespeare's "Hamlet," and creates an epic retelling of the rotten doings in Denmark. "Fortinbras Gets Drunk," in its Coast premiere, brilliantly mirrors the machinations of contemporary global politics. Though director Andy Flickman inventively guides a first-rate ensemble, his raunchy, over-the-top commedia dell'arte staging often blurs rather than illuminates the playwright's intent.

The 15-member company exuberantly chews up every square inch of the limited Fountainhead stage as they expose the political shenanigans of Norwegian Chancellor Sternborg (Thomas Tofel) and his henchman Eight Eyes (Robert Clendenin).

The pair’s murderous efforts to manipulate the governments of Norway and Denmark are complicated, however, by the return of Norway’s warrior prince, the roaring alcoholic Fortinbras (Andrew Shaifer).

In an amazingly farcical tour de force, Shaifer’s Fortinbras stumbles his way besottedly over the deliciously evil maneuverings, and pratfalls onto the throne of Norway.

In a sea of outstanding performances, particular mention must go to Lisa Smith and Suzanne Krull, who embody the grotesquely funny degradation of civilization’s “everyman”; Clendenin’s geekish but chillingly homicidal Eight Eyes; Amy Goddard’s lusty portrayal of the maiden who gives her body and then her head to Fortinbras; and Ron Livingston, whose stoic portrayal of Hamlet gives new meaning to “melancholy Dane.”

Obscured in all this virtuosity is the through line of Glowacki’s text: that all political idealism that seeks power can only succeed by corrupting itself.

Director Fickman would have achieved greater success if he had focused less on the jokes and a bit more on Glowacki.

The set, lighting and costume designs of Gregory Van Horn, Todd Bakerian and Elizabeth Tobias, respectively, aid the fast-paced action.

Fortinbras Gets Drunk

(Fountainhead Theatre, Hollywood; 85 seats; $ 12.50 top)

Production: The Fountainhead Theatre Co. presents a play in two acts by Janusz Glowacki; director, Andy Flickman; producer, Susanne Goldstein; associate producers, Jonathan Berzer, Scott Leo.

Creative: Set design, Gregory Van Horn; lighting, Todd Bakerian; costumes, Elizabeth Tobias; music direction, Amy Goddard; special effects, Chris Affre; special makeup creations, Bill Hunt; violence director, Matthew Glave. Opened May 20, 1993, reviewed June 4; runs through June 19.

Cast: Fortinbras ... Andrew Shaifer Sternborg ... Thomas Tofel Eight Eyes ... Robert Clendenin Guard I ... Lisa Smith Guard II ... Suzanne Krull Mortinbras ... Matthew Sheehan Dagny Borg ... Amy Goddard Hamlet ... Ron Livingston Polonius ... Spencer Beglarian Ghost of Hamlet's father ... Paul Sarnoff Food taster ... Steve Rosenbaum Finnish delegate ... Alejandro Patino Laertes ... Matthew Glave Osric ... Peter Guttmacher Queen Gertrude ... Lucy Marlow Polish playwright Janusz Glowacki focuses on Fortinbras, a minor character in Shakespeare's "Hamlet," and creates an epic retelling of the rotten doings in Denmark. "Fortinbras Gets Drunk," in its Coast premiere, brilliantly mirrors the machinations of contemporary global politics. Though director Andy Flickman inventively guides a first-rate ensemble, his raunchy, over-the-top commedia dell'arte staging often blurs rather than illuminates the playwright's intent.

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