“My Brooklyn Hamlet” Offers One Woman’s Look at Love and Tragedy in a Search for Peace
TR Robertson — Brenda Adelman’s acclaimed one woman play about her family and the story revolving around both the love of her parents and a tragic and traumatic occurrence is now online presented by a joint combination of the Scripps Ranch Theatre and the Oceanside Theatre. She has performed the play across the country and throughout Europe. Brenda received the Hero of Forgiveness Award from The Hawaii International Forgiveness Project in recognition of her play.
“My Brooklyn Hamlet” centers on both her life growing up in Brooklyn in a somewhat dysfunctional family and her life apart from her family, all the time dealing with a father she both loved and disliked. Adelman plays her mother, her father, and her brother as well as herself in the play as she describes her relationship with her mother and the love of Shakespeare she developed, the arts her mother instilled in her and the unusual relationship she has with her father. The play is both a Shakespearean and a Greek tragedy as she weaves the story of her father’s indiscretions, his relationship with his wife and the horrible incident that will have a profound effect on Brenda’s life.
Her father, Jerry, ran an auto body shop in Brooklyn, Adelman’s Auto, and her mother, Barbie, considered herself an artist searching for experience in life. She describes her mother as a “card carrying feminist”. Brenda worked part time in her father’s auto shop, went to shooting ranges with her father, all the while looking at the tumultuous relationship her parents had. She remembers her father as always smoking Cuban cigars and always having his 38-caliber pistol near him. One vivid memory she described was her mother on her knees begging for money, to pay the bills, from her father. Her mother wanted to explore the world and share this experience with Brenda. She remembers her mother saying, “Grab life like a tube of paint and squeeze everything out”.
Brenda’s parents went through numerous break-ups and make-ups, arguing constantly and her mother always forgiving her father. Her mother became suicidal over some of the incidents. This would continue until one day in 1995 when she received a phone call that would change her life forever. Her father had been in an altercation with her mother and Brenda’s mother was dead from a gunshot. She saw her life resembling the Shakespearean tragedy “Hamlet’, where Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius, murders Hamlet’s father in order to marry Hamlet’s mother Gertrude, who dies from drinking poison. For Brenda, her father murders her mother to marry Brenda’s aunt, her mother’s sister. Hamlet’s story weaves an even more sinister tale as Hamlet kills Claudius, Ophelia, a woman who likes Hamlet, dies from either a suicide or accidental drowning and Hamlet kills Ophelia’s father, Polonius, by accident. For Brenda, her struggle is to try and understand why her father did what he did, how could she build a relationship with her brother, her personal struggles with food and men, the trial surrounding her father and trying to understand if she could ever forgive her father and bring peace to her life.
The healing process Brenda goes through returns to the most famous Shakespearean quote from “Hamlet”, “To be or not to be”. Can she reach a point where she can have closure and solace from a life with both tragic and comic and memorable stories? As the press release from SRT and Oceanside Theatre says, “This is a story about love and hate, passion and numbness and how to find joy after you’ve lost everything”. Adelman’s brilliant performance, portraying the members of her family, making the characters that formed her life burst onto the stage is a sad, poignant, and intriguing story that will leave you spellbound.
“My Brooklyn Hamlet” will be online for one more weekend, April 30-May 2. Tickets are available through http://scrippsranchtheatre.org/mybrooklynhamlet/ . The play is written and performed by Brenda Adelman, directed by Charles Peters, and filmed and edited by Ted Leib.