Take one classic Shakespearean tragedy; sprinkle in a live audition, some Irish wit, audience participation and a bit with a dog. Now shake.

Take one classic Shakespearean tragedy; sprinkle in a live audition, some Irish wit, audience participation and a bit with a dog. Now shake.

The result is "The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane" - theater company Pan Pan's award-winning deconstruction of "Hamlet," which will be presented this week at the Wexner Center.

Fresh off performances in the Big Apple last week, Ireland's inventive Pan Pan ensemble is making its second trip to Columbus after a successful 2008 visit with "Oedipus Loves You."

"The Rehearsal," which received the 2010 Irish Times Theatre Award for Best Production, takes Shakespeare's "Hamlet" head-on while simultaneously redefining it.

"It's so difficult to play Hamlet," said director Gavin Quinn, who co-founded Pan Pan with Aedín Cosgrove in 1991. "It's often more a question of how much you fail, not how much you succeed."

So what does Pan Pan do? It places the burden of casting the role of Hamlet on the audience.

"The Rehearsal" is essentially two shows in one - the first act is a live audition, complete with a real casting director, an academic (usually a university professor) and Quinn, the stage director.

In between acts, the audience is invited onto the stage to vote for one of three actors. Then "Hamlet" is staged in the second half of the show, with the audience favorite taking on the role of the brooding Danish prince.

Madness, in various forms, is often the result.

Indeed, it is the juxtaposition between Pan Pan's in-your-face theatrical gags - there's a real Great Dane on stage, for instance - and the intellectual gravity of "Hamlet" that is central to the show's mojo.

And although there's loads of fodder for "Hamlet" diehards, Quinn insists that "The Rehearsal" is very approachable. He notes that a common response by audience members is they want to go read "Hamlet" again.

In addition to breathing new life into one of the world's most quoted works of literature, Quinn hopes to leave the audience with something else.

"I think it's the presentation of 'Hamlet' as a work of art," he said. "In the end, what you get is a sense of the struggle, the tension, of actually having to put on the play."