From Denmark With Love

by Michael Cox

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday May 24, 2013

You remember the old commercial. A man is walking down the street with chocolate, and collides into a woman. She yells something like, "Why did you stick your candy bar in my peanut butter?" And he responds, "Your peanut butter was asking for it. It shouldn't be flaunting itself in that type of a container." The details of the commercial are fuzzy, but you get the idea: everyone has distinct tastes and sometimes those tastes can be melded.

Vaquero Playground melds James Bond and Hamlet in their sexy, parody, From Denmark with Love. Two seemingly disparate characters come together to create a play that's funny, fast-paced, filthy and also somehow smart.

The action begins high atop a blustery cliff on the shore of Bornholm, a tiny island in the Baltic Sea. King Hamlet (Bob Mussett), aka 006, is roughing-up Fortinbras (Brett Milanowski) in order to get some answers. Why Bornholm? What can this tiny island offer beyond arts and crafts and dairy farming? Lovely scenic views of Poland? To protect this secret Fortinbras commits suicide by smoking a cyanide-laced cigarette revealing only this: Bornholm is "just the tip of the iceberg."

King Hamlet turns to the audience, "That's what she said."

"Daddy?" cries a deformed henchman with a jaw made entirely of iron teeth. This is the horrified son of the dead man, FortinJaws (Terrence Patrick Haddad). "Nowhere to run, 006," he says. "This is the end of the road."

"Roads?" mutters King Hamlet. "Where I'm going, I don't need roads." Then he flings himself off the cliff as the tide crushes against the deadly rocks below.

Will this be the death of King Hamlet? Hell no. From within the king's backpack a hang glider emerges, brandishing the flag of Denmark.

You're probably saying to yourself, "That's all good and well, but I like a little sex in my super-spy action-adventures based on a Shakespearean tragedy." Cut to the next scene:

Ripe with the musk of his conquest, King Hamlet enters his bed chamber and seizes his lady love, Gertrude (Janelle Mills). The day is his, but he has one more thing to spoil. He sinks to his knees and raises his queen’s dress, as soft and velvety as the flesh between her thighs. Her breast heave higher and higher as her moist lips part to unleash their creamy vociferation. Just then poison dart, delivered by King Hamlet’s brother Claudius (Daniel Berger-Jones), hits him right in the ear hole. Undaunted, the ravenous queen takes Claudius inside of her, and they make love over the remnants of the fratricide.

As you will gather, this is not the Hamlet that you were required to read in high school, though it’s filled with almost as much gratuitous sex and violence as Shakespeare’s play. By the way, all that action happens before the opening credits. (Yes, this play has credits and they are awesome.) Fit for a James Bond blockbuster, the titles are set against a backdrop of taut naked bodies in silhouette-women’s and men’s.

Part of what makes this play so much fun is the frenetic ensemble. Director, Barlow Adamson has gathered some of the most popular and talented actors in Boston’s fringe theatre. Chelsea Schmidt, Bob Mussett and Brett Milanowski set the pace for the show.

Janelle Mills plays a comic book Gertrude that has a calculating and lusty ambiguity. She also plays a robotic, sexual-pleasure device (known as The Player Queen), which is surprisingly unlike her role in the Stoneham Theatre’s production of "It’s a Wonderful Life."

Terrence Patrick Haddad, as Laertes, is a beefy little ball of testosterone, sleek-headed with a lean and hungry look in his eye; he oozes sex appeal from the moment we see him doing push-ups with his sister on his back. But he morphs into a FortinJaws that is pathetic and monstrous, completely unappealing to anyone except the fetishists and masochists.

Daniel Jones uses his enormous vocal abilities to play both the hero and the villain. His Claudius sounds so much like Arnold Schwarzenegger that from the moment he opens his mouth you just know you’re going to disagree with his politics. Playing the character of Hamlet, his baritone resonates within your loins, giving you that feeling of riding a roller coaster with your pants off. When he does Sean Connery it’s enough to makes you fidget in your seat. But when he appears on the beach in his speedo, and you see his too, too solid flesh, even the most frigid audience member will thaw, melt and resolve herself to leave her seat a little dewy.

My favorite character appears when Claudius, Gertrude, and Polonius Balzac (Milanowski) hide an anachronistic recording device behind the arras. That’s when Hamlet sees her:

"I’m Ophelia Balzac," she says.

"Oh, you will, will you?" replies the secret agent prince.

As Bond girls go, Ophelia Balzac (Bridgette Hayes) pummels Pussy Galore. And unlike her Renaissance predecessor she is anything but a virginal victim. If her maidenhead is still intact it’s only because her father keeps her locked-up in a cast-iron chastity belt, but even that is no match for her urges. She is still a cherub-faced, facile pawn in Polonius Balzac’s plan, but she’s also a libidinous lush.

She devises a creative work-around for the chastity belt. And when she and Hamlet play "Milkmaid and the Huntsman," you realize there are more ways in heaven and earth to get your rocks off than are dreamt of by those who aren’t sexually oppressed.

Don’t worry she still sings mad songs full of nonsensical lyrics, like the Carly Simon power ballad "The Spy Who Loved Me."

Michael Clark Wonson, whose lighting was almost poetic in Argos Productions "The Seabirds", creates an ironic, rock star’s light plot that winks at the audience without being hammy.

All the technical elements of this show are quite extraordinary, considering the resources, and demonstrate just how much can be accomplished on a limited budget. With none of the restraints of realism, designers have room to explore.

This is a production that encourages boundless creativity across the board, for example they have put together a soundtrack of Boston based bands playing original songs inspired by James Bond themes. They’re pretty impressive, and the album only costs $007. You can listen to the album and see trailers for the show on Vaquero Playground’s website.

From Denmark With Love runs May 10 - June 1, 2013 at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
949 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston MA 02115. For more information, the Vaquero Playground’s website.

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