Hamlet might be in the park, but Ophelia's getting around this summer. First, there was Aya Ogawa's Oph3lia at HERE, and now there's Woodshed Collective's production of Caridad Svich's 12 Ophelias at McCarren Pool. It's an appropriate setting for it: Ophelia (Pepper Binkley) emerges from the pool where she drowned into, well, a larger, drier pool that becomes a dystopic afterlife--Hamlet is reconfigured into Rude Boy (Dan Cozzens), lacking memory but gaining a conscience; Gertrude (Kate Benson) runs a brothel; and Ophelia finally gets what a cad Hamlet is. Send her to a nunnery, indeed.
Gabriel Hainer Evansohn's set and Jessica Pabst's costumes are a sort of trailer park chic--and I know from trailer parks, being Applachian myself. The whole cast dawns Southern drawls that for the most part work, and The Jones Street Boys offer ridiculously catchy blue grass interludes between scenes. The acting is strong, though occasionally hampered by the usual technical foibles accompanying outdoor performances, and, though hers is a minor character, Jocelyn Kuritsky's Mina, a prostitute with the proverbial heart of gold, totally won over my own tarnished heart.
Svich's work is tricky. The last piece I saw was One Year Lease's Iphigenia Crash Land Falls On The Neon Shell That Was Once Her Heart (a rave fable), which was great (and, as with all of OYL works, gorgeously staged) but left some difficult questions about sexuality and gender a bit too unanswered. 12 Ophelias is pretty straight-up in its approach--Ophelia loves Hamlet, is ravished by Hamlet, gets over Hamlet--and director Teddy Bergman offers a playful but still straightforward approach to this out-of-love story. Like Iphigenia, it's a work that is difficult for young actors to pull off, but paradoxically one that seems made for young actors. Woodshed stepped up, and while there were a few eyebrow-raised moments (and eye-shut moments--only Richard Foreman can get away with blinding the audience with his lighting), the production takes on Svich's challenge with pluck and verve.