…James Ijames’s outstanding transformation of Shakespeare’s tragedy into a play about Black masculinity and queerness, both echoes “Hamlet” and finds a language beyond it.
So I’ll start with a scene that especially evokes this production’s charms: In the middle of a backyard barbecue, a group of family members and friends sitting around a table covered with plates of ribs, corn on the cob and biscuits is suddenly bathed in a blue spotlight. They break out into an impressionistic dance (choreographed by Darrell Grand Moultrie), curling forward and arching backward in slow motion, arms fanning out, then they slump down into their seats and begin headbanging. All the while, our hero, Juicy (Marcel Spears), whom Ijames characterizes in his script as “a kinda Hamlet,” mournfully croons along to Radiohead’s “Creep.”
This is Ijames’s tongue-in-cheek style of wit: Of course the melancholy prince would have sung “Creep” had Thom Yorke and his band been around in 17th-century England. Without undermining its drama, “Fat Ham” pokes fun at the theatricality of Hamlet’s anguish.
‘Fat Ham’ Review: Dismantling Shakespeare to Liberate a Gay Black ‘Hamlet’
James Ijames’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, set at a Southern barbecue, gets its first in-person production at the Public Theater.