The play's the thing(also published on January 12 as a longer version under the title 'Pop Quiz: To Be or Not to Be')
by Nelle Oosterom
Winnipeg - To succeed or not to succeed. That is the question.
Can Keanu Reeves - a young and seriously famous Hollywood star - pull off a credible performance of Hamlet tomorrow night at the Manitoba Theatre Centre?
Reeves, star of the hit film Speed and idol of young women everywhere, is not exactly starving for public acclaim.
And at least one of the actors who shares the stage with Reeves doesn't care about negative reviews.
"I think whether the show is a failure or success is so secondary to a lot of us because of the situation", said Stephen Russell, who plays Claudius to Reeves' Hamlet.
The "situation" is that the play, which runs until Feb. 4, is sold out for its entire run on account of Reeves, who at first blush seems an unlikely candidate for Hamlet.
A proven master of Hollywood action, adventure and comedy films, the 30-year-old now tackles what is considered the most demanding role in theatre.
But it turns out he's been a closet Shakespearean all along.
"The first thing I noticed about Keanu is how much work he'd already done in preparing for Hamlet," said Russell, a veteran Shakespearean actor.
"It was apparent to me that this was not going to be a star trip, this was not going to be a romp in the park, that he is a very serious young man and he was not here to fool around.
"When you're trying to get a part right, it can be quite frustrating," said Russell. "You can vent it by having a fit, blocking out other people or by accepting your vulnerability in the situation and laughing at it. Keanu, for the most part, laughs at it."
Reeves must deliver seven soliloquies and 19 major speeches, and Russell expects Reeves' Hamlet to reflect his youthfulness.
"I think you're going to see a vulnerable Hamlet," said Russell. "I also think you're going to see an electric Hamlet in terms of his freedom to make choices because of who he is."