By William Shakespeare
Directed by Brian Vaughn
Starring Junior Nyong’o, Susan Marris, and Paige Lindsay White
I find Hamlet the most flexible of the Bards’ work product. Hamlet might be insane, depressed, whimsical, timid, or bold. His situation works in each style, giving the audience a different experience at every different production. Mr. Nyong’o takes us down the “Clever Hamlet” path, one where he knows exactly what he needs to do, and he almost pulls off a counter revolt. As you may have heard, Hamlet was in Wittenberg learning manners when his uncle Claudius (Gene Gillette) murders Hamlet’s dear old dad, marries his mother Gertrude (White) and assumes power. No one was ready to argue the coup, and advisor Polonius (Dan Kremer) takes the new king in stride. When Claudius sends Hamlet to England to get him out of the way, Hamlet intercepts his death warrant and murders his old buddies Rosenkranz (Terrance Lee) and Guildenstern (Amanda Anne Dayton). Hamlet’s major flaw is a fear of killing Claudius as he prays; Hamlet over reaches and assumes death is not good enough for Clausius without a complementary upgrade to eternal damnation.
In the dark and moody space set up as Theater in the Round, there’s plenty of stage tricks to entertain alongside the story. The rotating stage displays the speeches to the entire house, and various traps and furniture pop up mid-stage. Nyong’o goes through every emotion in the book, sometimes sad or loving, then wise dark and disturbing, and able to turn on a denarius. Polonius shows us a pompous senior statesman who will never make it to the top, and Gertrude seems like she’s along for the ride, no matter who is driving the cart. The ghost (Kenny Babel) reappears from time to time in Asterix and Obelisk inspired head piece, and Ophelia (Susan Maris) seems to semi like Hamlet, yet her expectations are low. Perhaps you’ve seen this chestnut of a family in crisis before, but this chestnut is worth roasting again.