Housed in a scrappy, sweet oversized puppet theater (super scenic design by François-Pierre Couture), the five-member cast does a fantastic job of zipping through basic Bard with a light and zany twist that's kid-friendly without making enemies of the so-called adults in the audience. Here Hamlet (Brian Kimmet) is a hyperactive nerd with an appropriately big chip on his shoulder and real problems controlling his emotions. Playwright Angela Berliner's adorably dorky Ophelia is a perfect match for him, despite her overprotective dad. Nicol Razon does Polonious proud; she's also delightful as the Ghost of Hamlet's father and the Gravedigger. Natasha Midgley is a lovely, tipsy Gertrude, and David Dastmalchian's oily Claudius is a scene-stealer of wonderfully epic proportions. Director Justin Zsebe keeps us on track during the freewheeling proceedings; incidental music and live percussion add just the right touches. Very clever low-tech elements—how much do we love seeing Hamlet on a pirate ship?—along with colorful costumes by Ann Closs-Farley make for a nifty package. And forgiving some jokes for which she and the cast should be punished—or maybe that's the point?—Berliner's script, clocking in at well under an hour, manages to be funny, intelligent and even touching: Ophelia's mad scene is quite poignant.
Sure, this Hamlet may fall into the condescending kiddie trap a few times, but, hey, moody princes are like that. And it's worth it to share in his misery and witness the waterworks.
Presented by L'Enfant Terrible at the Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A. April 10–May 9. Sat.–Sun., 11 a.m. (213) 389-3856. www.lenfantterible.org.