Guilty Creatures Sitting at a Play

We parked along Topanga to our own peril and that of our car.Our weekend’s pleasure was to descend into the twisty deeps of Topanga Canyon where the Theatricum Botanicum is mounting a production of Hamlet. We chose an afternoon performance to enjoy the sunlight dappled by the stately eucalyptuses on the theater’s bosky grounds.

Like the lamented Hamburger Hamlet but not like it at all.We arrived early enough to gad about those bosky grounds, to snag bottles of water at “The Hamlet Hut,” and to resist the urgings of a group of madrigal singers to “lhude sing cuccu.” Thus well prepped for Elizabethan fun, we allowed ourselves to be herded with the rest of the audience-to-be into Theatriucum Botanicum’s lovely amphitheater in the woods.

Actors are not actual size.Before the rousing show began I took this fuzzy photo of part of the stage with my phone. The ghost of Hamlet’s father walks on the roof of that many-doored structure. King Claudius tries (and fails) to pray on the balcony while Hamlet considers stabbing him. Ophelia, the last we see of her, is lhude singing cuccu and skipping up the trail to the right — the same trail down which sprints a screaming Queen Gertrude bringing her eyewitness report of Ophelia’s drowning. Fortinbras’s army marches all over the steeply rising woods above center stage. This is all to say: the natural setting of the theater gets used right up.

We mere observers were not allowed to photograph the actual play because it’s an Equity Production and they have rules. Also because it’s rude. So I cut out pictures of the great actors Edwin Booth, David Garrick and Thomas Keene — all being melancholy and Danish — then glued them to the photo to give you a feeling for the show. Now imagine beautiful cool breezes, the occasional motorcycle on Topanga, a funnier than usual scene with the gravedigger, a first-rate Polonius, and a real clanging swordfight for a finale and you have it.

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