Friday night, tucked a few rows back from the small black box set-up of the Alley Theater, I sat elbow-to-elbow with a literary buff on my right, and a comic book enthusiast on my left—all of us unsure as to what the company’s performance of “Bat-Hamlet” would hold. Especially as I, for one, had spent my afternoon attempting to explain to people what I was doing with my evening.
“So—where are you going to watch the game tonight?” An inquisitive acquaintance had asked in a feeble attempt at small-talk.
“I’m not watching the game tonight. I’m actually—“
She cut me off. “Oh, are you going to that comic convention thing?” She smirked derisively, no doubt referencing the Wizard World Louisville Comic Con.
“It’s not that either. I’m actually going to see ‘Bat-Hamlet’ tonight.” She was rendered momentarily speechless, so I attempted to elucidate.
“Bat-Hamlet”, by playwright Jordan Pulliam, is actually exactly what it sounds like—a mash-up between the dark and brooding caped-crusader, and the equally dark and brooding Prince of Denmark. Pulliam basically sticks to the classic Shakespearean plot, but he draws on famous comic book characters to tell it.
And—like other Alley Theater shows such as “Star Wars in 60 Minutes or Less” or “Evil Dead: The Musical”—the production provided more than a subtle nod to pop-culture that held something for all audience members, whether they fell more on the superhero or Shakespearean end of the spectrum of audience-appeal.
“Bat-Hamlet” provided a comical mix of superhero kitsch, Dark Night jabs (think exaggerated gravelly voice), colorful spandex, and witty one-liners regarding the former (“I look like a one-man gay pride parade”). This was all paired with just enough of the classic “Hamlet” plot to elevate the production from what could have been merely an elongated stage-recreation of the 60’s Adam West “Batman” television show.
So, to parody the Jester (the Joker/Claudius mash-up) who provided one of the most memorable bits of the night— in which he read aloud from his diary: “Dear Diary: I killed the king two months ago, and I am still not sorry. Love, Jester,” and then lowered to his knees and proceeded to pray aloud, “Dear Satan: I killed the king two months ago, and I am still not sorry. Love, Jester”—I feel completely justified in saying:
“Dear Louisville: It’s been two nights since I watched Bat-Hamlet (instead of the UofL/UK game), and I’m still not sorry.”
The Alley Theater’s Superhuman: A Festival continues next weekend with three more nights of “Bat-Hamlet” and then continues into “The Ballad of Night Moose,” a supervillain crime caper by Louisville playwrights Lex Mitchell and Ben Unwin.
Tickets for the April 4, 5 and 6 7:30 shows of "Bat-Hamlet" can be purchased at The Alley Theater's website.
Cover photo provided by The Alley Theater