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Theater Reviews and Commentary from Karen Salkin

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You think I’m kidding with that above title, don’t you? When I told all my friends that I had gone to this, they thought I was exaggerating. But, no. If you’re going to do a play at a cemetery, what’s more appropriate than “Hamlet?”

This is what it is: An ambitious (to say the least) staging of “Hamlet,” performed at the historic Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Unlike an engaging production of “Marley’s Ghost” that I attended at the same venue a few years back, in which we followed the actors around the whole property, even into the chapel, this time we sat on a hill, sort-of right in the action.

Here are my random notes that I wrote as the evening went on…and on…:

If you read nothing else I write about this, read this sentence: BRING A BLANKET AND LOW CHAIRS!!!

Don’t sit near the speakers. Go in groups and bring food and water…and heroin!

Interesting venue, but too much cigarette smoke (which shouldn’t be allowed in a cemetery).

The actors were too low (my friend thought they weren’t miked) and the mood music too loud. I can hear the radio of my rude across-the-street neighbor at my house better than I could hear these actors. They were so far away, I felt like I was watching “Rear Window.”

Bring binoculars and whatever refreshments you want; though this is an unusual cemetery, there’s still no snack bar. Don’t wear good clothing or do your hair and nails.

Rude audience behavior observed: Someone brought a baby. Worse than that: a group came after the show had started, greeted their friends loudly, went through crunchy plastic bags for food, popped beer tops, and were all smoking and flicking ashes on the grass. At a cemetery!

Lovely theater (I mean it), especially for the claustrophobic.

When I was a teenager, I was in Federico Lorca’s “Blood Wedding.” (I know--perfect casting, right?) I had such show-stopping lines as, “Wool, red wool, what do you spin?” and delivered them as a young girl from Brooklyn, reading with expression. (Which is exactly what I was!) That’s what these performances reminded me of; hardly any of the actors seemed to convey Shakespeare’s meaning.

Interesting staging and presentation.

I’ve spent many of my recent summers in Aspen, and one the most fun parts was Thursday night concerts on Fanny Hill. We all brought blankets and food and rocked out to whatever group was playing, no matter what kind of music it was. The point was we were all together, enjoying outdoor entertainment. This gave me that same good feeling.

As the flasks were drained (by the spectators), the audience laughed more and louder. At what, I can’t tell you since I don’t drink.

This is the best kind of theatre to fall asleep in, for those of you who consistently do it at conventional ones.

“Hamlet” is chock full of classic lines that I’m sure many of us don’t realize originated from this play, such as, “I think she dost protest too much,” and “Get thee to a nunnery.” I want everyone to pause right now and think to themselves what Shakespeare’s definition of “nunnery” is. I’d guess that ninety percent of you would be wrong. Even my more intelligent friends think that it’s a place where nuns live. It’s not; it’s a brothel. Here’s the Cliff’s Notes explanation: “He tells her to go to a nunnery, assaulting her with another double entendre insult. In the Protestant Elizabethan world, people used the word ‘nunnery’ as a euphemism for ‘brothel’.”

When I was little, I thought Shakespeare was for grown-ups. Now that I am a grown-up, of sorts, I don’t know for whom it is.

You can eat and drink freely, but you may want to take it easy in those categories because all you have at intermission is Andy Gumps, if you get my drift.

The action takes place in two main areas that you can see from any vantage point, but they move around somewhat, including to an area right where I was sitting. Dean Chekvala, the guy who played Hamlet, was a much better actor close-up.

Don’t go here on a first date, unless your second one is to the chiropractor. Bad enough you’re sitting on the ground; on the way to opening night my friend, Jeff, mentioned that “Hamlet” is a very long play. How right he was; the first act started at 8:40PM and ended at 10:20! That’s a long time to spend at a cemetery, unless you’re moving in.

Hamlet running through July 29 Hollywood Forever Cemetery 600 Santa Monica Blvd. Hollywood 800-595-4849


I love a happy event. This one was it, all the way around. I attended the Los Angeles Premiere of the Australian film, “Introducing The Dwights” at the Directors Guild this week. All the stars were there, including the amazing Brenda Blethyn, who looked fabulous.

[Sidebar: I love when actresses are brave enough to look not great on film. I was always too vain and shallow for that, except in the most recent film I did, where I looked so awful (unintentionally) that at the premiere, my 12-year-old friend, Ronnie, did a spit take when he realized it was me on the screen. Charming. But really, how good can one look as the Mayor’s bitch wife held hostage in a Western?]

Anyway, the film was entertaining enough, with excellent performances, and one adorable young guy, Khan Chittenden. If he’s not the star of a show on the CW in the next two years, I’ll be shocked. (Although, when I mentioned it to him at the reception after the screening, he didn’t even know what I was talking about. Those nutty Aussies!)

The only thing I couldn’t understand about it was why the actress who plays the young girl love interest doesn't fix her terribily crooked teeth! My motto used to be “Don’t fix anything on your face, except teeth.” Seriously, they’re so important, and if you’re going to be seen on a big screen, at least make the effort. Unless your film will be seen only in England.

Anyway, when we got out of the film at the DGA, there was a lovely reception set up in the lobby, catered by It’s My Party, which I had heard of, but had never taken notice of. All the food was good, and it was a great selection of finger foods, my favorite being tiny mushroom pies.

Didn’t care for their many cookies and tarts, though. And none of the guests seemed to be able to make out the flavors, which isn’t a good thing. Why don’t all caterers get smart enough to put little signs on or near their offerings? I rarely eat something I can’t identify. And my Royal Taster that night got just about everything wrong. I hate having to track down someone who knows. Most of the servers weren’t sure, either, which is so not cool for a catering company.

The drinks were flowing, and the crowd was buzzing. Such a good time was had by all that no one seemed to want to leave! That’s the sign of a successful happening. BTW, I’d like the film, even with no food afterwards.


And lastly, the Los Angeles Film Festival is going on in Westwood since last week. I’ve been too busy to attend the screenings, (it’s the first week of Wimbledon and the most exciting NBA draft in years was just held), but I did manage to make it to one of the after-parties.

It was for the film “Kabluey,” that stars Lisa Kudrow, and that’s all I know about it. (Actually, I would have made time to attend and not just been shallow enough to show up at the party, but I was told it was sold-out.)

The party was held at a strange but interesting venue. It seemed to be the basement of a former sporting goods store in Westwood, and was decorated to look like a modern club. But there was no ventilation, and everyone was dripping with sweat.

There was some food, but it was all vegetarian, mainly soy products. And the music was way too loud for some older guests like the venerable actor, Charles Durning, who I don’t think had anything to do with the film, but seemed to know a lot of people.

Reading over what I just wrote, I realize it sounds like I didn’t enjoy myself, but I did. I’m just reporting the facts as I would to a friend. But I never need anything to be perfect to have a good time. Lila and I entertained ourselves by finding the only fan in the venue, and taking pictures standing in front of it, like I did in my old modeling days. It really does work for print. Try it sometime. (I wonder if Beyonce and her friends do the same thing to amuse themselves.)

There were two highlights for me. One was the goodie bags, naturally. Even when there’s hardly anything in them, they always put people in a good mood leaving a party. But I got a VIP one, and it had several good items. There was an interesting tee shirt, make-up, hair products, and VAVA Water that elicits the response, Joy Of Life, which we all need more of, in my opinion.

ben stiller and Karen Salkin

But the best part was meeting Ben Stiller, whose wife is in the film, I was told. I love a supportive guy. (You should only know what Mr. X did for me this week to know just how much I love guys like that!) Here’s why meeting him was great: I don’t think that I’ve seen many of his films, though Mr. X has, and is a fan of his work. But I was in NY with my little mother when “American Idol’” did their charity show this season.

When Ben came on and did his very funny bit, my mother laughed so hard. Every time they cut back to him, she got hysterical. I’m so appreciative of anyone who brings mirth to my mother. (Yet another reason that Mr. X is up there.)

When I told Ben Stiller thank you for that, he seemed genuinely touched, and told ME thank you for telling him that! Two times. So, I liked him even more for appreciating my appreciating.

And that’s why I had a good time at this heat-filled, soy-serving, low-ceilinged party. All I ever need is one mensch, and my time is made.

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