breakneck hamlet cliffnotes

Fun, Fearless Shakespeare: Tim Mooney Debut Breakneck Hamlet at Clockwise Theatre

Sunday, May 31, 2015 Cora

Tim Mooney world premiered his one man show, Breakneck Hamlet, at Clockwise Theatre in Waukegan Friday May 29th to a warm receptive crowd. Mooney dove further into his niche of breaking down and bottom lining great works from great writers so contemporary audiences can enjoy them with great success.

I agree with one reviewer of Mooney's show Lot o Shakespeare, his work is "Cliffnotes on caffeine." Lights up and Mooney jumped right into the play, announcing the act and scene and summarizing what will happen in a couple of lines. The truthful heading helped so audience members can look for why he titled it that way. Act II he titled "Acting and Spying" and Act III "More Acting and Spying" because that's essentially what goes on. As he explained and performed the action, audience members could focus on how people were acting and spying and why. While Hamlet is usually a dark tragedy, Mooney's was not without humor or asides. One scene in Act I got a laugh because it only took a second took to explain before moving on. He provided a cliffnote, a verbal asterix found at the bottom of the page, offering information about Nero in Hamlet's speech to his mother in her chambers and why that was important. If you didn't know that information about Nero, you would have missed a layer of the speech.
It was performed at a clipping speed as promised, but polished. He went at the correct speed for it to feel accelerated but audience members could understand everything. I am a Shakespeare fan and Hamlet is one of my favorites. I like seeing how an actor and director approach the character (Is he crazy or just pretending?) and how they approach a couple of key scenes. As with any theatre event, I love the world created and escapism provided. You don't get that same experience with Mooney's one man show, but it's not meant to be the play itself at 90 mph. It's purpose is to get people interested so they'll see the play itself. While on one hand you're being told instead of shown by the play what's going on, it's similar to being told by a docent what to look for in an art exhibit, a small detail that stands out and why it's there. It adds to your experience. If you didn't know that going in, you'd still enjoy it but not to the level you could, kind of a "teach a man to fish" experience for theatre.
You're able to focus in on the soliloquies, hear the words and nuances because you're not switching gears from dialogue and narrative. You're able to see Hamlet's character arc clearer and see the progression from beginning to end. You see in brighter light how Hamlet had the opportunity to kill Claudius, understand why he didn't and see the irony of Claudius' line that ends the scene. It's a powerful scene some people miss because they're either tuned out at that point or don't understand why Hamlet didn't just kill him. If you're someone knew to Hamlet like a high school student or someone who had a poor experience with the play, I see how that would be helpful and take away some fear. Breakneck Hamlet runs until June 7th at Clockwise Theatre before Mooney takes it to several fringe festivals across the country. For tickets and more information, visit For more on Mooney and his other shows, visit

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