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CRC theater presents a comedy of terrors: ‘Hamlet: zombie killer of Denmark’

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“Neither a borrower, nor an undead be.”

Denmark isn’t a place where the dead are resting easy, especially when its current king, Claudius, is plotting to turn the entire kingdom into an Elizabethan prequel to “28 Days Later.”

It’s “Hamlet: Zombie Killer of Denmark.” Written by contemporary playwright Chris Stiles, the play is a comical adaptation of Shakespeare’s most well-known tragedy, adding fleshy puns, all while maintaining the iambic pentameter that the expired writer’s dialogue is known for.

The theater department chose this play to run as this semester’s brown bag production.

“You can literally go brown bag it and watch a play,” explained director Scott Gilbert, also a member of the adjunct faculty at the Cosumnes River College Theatre department. “The plays are free, so anyone can come, bring their lunch, eat and watch.”

The play will be featured outdoors in the CRC music quad, which is “a great coincidence,” according to Gilbert, given that Shakespeare’s plays were originally performed in the outdoor globe theatre in the doublet-n-hoes days.

What’s different is that the performance will take place in public, rather than in an outdoor theatre, which is a challenge known to any thespian, alive or undead.

“It’s just like if you were trying to preach in the quad,” Gilbert noted. “It’ll be hard to get people to keep from just walking by you.”

The set is also minimal, leaving much to the imagination, and much on the actor’s to paint the picture.

Gilbert clarified that fun is the priority of the production.

“If you’re going to sit out at lunch time and watch, I don’t believe that tragedies are really appropriate in that situation, under the sunshine, at noon.” Gilbert said. “This should be a lot of silliness, and lot of foolishness.”

Costumes and makeup will be consistent with that tradition, the actors and actresses wearing both contemporary clothing, like Chuck Taylors paired with Elizabethan garments.

When comparing Shakespeare’s characters to this zombie-rific adaptation, Gilbert said, “some of the characters are really close to Shakespeare….and then they turn into zombies. Some of the characters are zombie-like from the start.”

“But for a half-hour play, the actors do get to do quite a bit of Shakespeare,” he continued. “Hamlet has his share of Hamlet-y lines.”

It’s not easy being “one of the great directors of America,” as Gilbert jokingly lamented.

Either way his take on directing is clear. “You don’t have to do everything, but you have to keep everything in mind.”

Gilbert see’s his job as a coach for the players, not so much a disciplinarian, but a leader.

Talking about his favorite Shakespeare plays, Gilbert praised King Lear. “It’s the greatest play ever written by a human being,” he said. “I also like Twelfth Night a lot.”

So how about it Gilbert? “Twelfth Night of the Living Dead”? “Lich King Lear”?

“Hamlet: Zombie Killer of Denmark” plays Oct. 8, 10, 15 and 17, at 12:30 p.m.

And with that, a word from a reanimated Julius Caesar: “Eat-you, Brute?”

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CRC theater presents a comedy of terrors: ‘Hamlet: zombie killer of Denmark’