Mike Nussbaum, the 84-year-old stage and screen vet who co-wrote and directs Dashiell Hamlet, a tongue-twisting take on the prince of Denmark in the hard-boiled style of Dashiell Hammett
Q: What makes Hamlet suitable for the dark-and-stormy-night treatment?
A: It has such a macabre heart. Doing it in the style of a film noir gave us all kinds of opportunities to capture that. Elsinore, Hamlet’s castle, is Majestic Studios. We made [Hamlet’s best friend] Horatio a private eye. We’ve based Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s characters on Burns and Allen. And there’s a whole scene right out of Double Indemnity.
Q: Is the plot basically the same, with almost everybody dead at the end, bodies stacked up like cordwood?
A: We changed the ending. It’s even more tragic now. Film noir generally ends with the mystery being solved, but the people involved have been damaged beyond repair. Getting to the bottom of things doesn’t solve their problems.
Q: What about the girl? Who’s the dame in this sordid business?
A: We’ve [nearly] made Ophelia into a heroin addict.
Sep 12–Oct 26. Fri, Sat at 8; Sun at 3. $18-$25. City Lit Theater, 1020 W Bryn Mawr. 773-293-3682.
Photography: Andreas Larsson