Hamlet in East Hampton

Craving a dose of Shakespeare? No need to wait for summer in the park. Round Table Theater Ensemble obliges with a mounting of Hamlet, Nov 7-23.

It’s the young company’s second date with the Bard, their first being a winter 2013 Macbeth that Southampton Press’s Dawn Watson called “polished, professional and thoroughly enjoyable on many levels.” The staging featured producing artistic director Morgan Vaughan as Lady Macbeth and her husband, Tristan, in the director’s chair. For Hamlet, their curtain positions have switched; Mr. Vaughan is playing the title role and Mrs. Vaughan is in charge of staging.

“I just did the cutting of it,” Morgan told Pulse in our late-summer chat. “I was overwhelmed with how difficult the play is to cut. There’s so much richness and brilliance in everything. Still, I’m hoping to get in at under two-and-a-half hours.” Vaughan went on to acknowledge it as a daunting challenge for an epic that can run up to four hours, but a necessary one. “We just don’t have the attention span or time to sit for even three [hours]. I don’t. I want to, but with the babysitter and everything else… We can’t leave and come back like the groundlings did in Shakespeare’s day.”

Those who stay will see 34-year-old Tristan Vaughan playing the indecisive Dane who, by most accounts, is at least 10 years younger. The director saw no problem with the age gap: “Olivier played it in the movie when he was 40. And for Hamlet, you need a good actor. Not a 16-year-old kid who’s just starting out.”

What you also need, if you’re a theater company, is a budget. Round Table has about $30,000 for that purpose thanks to a co-production deal with Guild Hall. “We’re non-Equity, but we have several Equity actors who are paid. And we pay the designers,” said Morgan. “They’re local people who are professionals and have designed other shows at Guild Hall, such as Red and The Cripple of Inishmaan.”

Asked about her overriding theme for the production, Morgan replied, “For me, personally, it’s about grief, loss and depression. The melancholy that takes over us… As a culture, we pretend death doesn’t exist, or it happens only to other people. Yet it’s right there staring us in the face all the time. It’s Hamlet holding Yorick’s skull—young, beautiful and dead. The whole play is about that iconic image. And I’m not being morbid or gruesome; it’s just life. It’s why we still do Hamlet 400 years after it was written.”