The Theater: Hamlet in Hawaii
Monday, Nov. 27, 1944
The Army, taking the Bard by the horns in Hawaii, has come up with a G.I. Hamlet. Moreover, it has come up smiling. With Major Maurice Evans bossing the job and playing the introspective Prince for the first time since 1940, the effect on the dogfaces has been, for Evans, "simply staggering." They even rise above normal behavior by refraining from hollering or whistling when performers go into a clinch. Commented one G.I.: "They certainly must have done a lot of rewriting to bring that play so up to date."
A blue pencil, not a pen, helped do it: a third of the play has been hacked off.
The modernish costumes helped, too: Hamlet wears trousers instead of tights, delivers "To be, or not to be," in a dinner jacket with silver-brocade lapels. No help at all were the unpoetic sergeants who inevitably shattered the high-tragic mood of the soldier cast's rehearsals, with such prose passages as "Hey, Polonius, you and those other guys get some brooms and clean up the theayter."
[the] highly truncated version of the play that he played for South Pacific war zones during World War II...made the prince a more decisive character. The staging, known as the "G.I. Hamlet", was produced on Broadway for 131 performances in 1945/46.
Evans’s romantic, extroverted, unneurotic, virile, and soldier-like Hamlet suggested Lord Byron.
Category: Theater and Stage | War | Adaptations, Reworkings, Recastings and New Versions | 1940s