The second show of GAMM Theatre's 27th season is William Shakespeare's "Hamlet". The play is set in the Kingdom of Denmark and recounts how Prince Hamlet exacts revenge on his uncle Claudius, firstly for murdering the old King Hamlet (Claudius' brother and the Prince's father) and secondly for then succeeding to the throne and marrying Gertrude(King Hamlet's wife and the Prince's mother). The play vividly portrays real and feigned madness, from overwhelming grief to seething rage and explores themes of treachery, revenge, incest, and moral corruption. Director Fred Sullivan infuses this show with the energy and vitality necessary to make the show relevant to current day audiences with his 15 member cast. He brings out the best in each of his performers and gives them their moment to shine in their roles. The audience leaps to their feet at the curtain call due to the expertise of director, cast and crew on creating a stunning and memorable piece of theatre. Bravo!
Brilliantly directed by Fred, he revisits the show he directed 15 years ago with Tony Estrella and Sam Babbitt. Everyone can identify with the plight of Hamlet according to Sullivan "It's about being isolated in a corrupt world and how we all feel about it." He is aided in his task by set designer Patrick Lynch who created a scarlet set with three different playing areas to foreshadow the blood and gore to follow. Also outstanding are the multitude of late 1940's costumes by Marilyn Salvatore. The magnificent sword fight choreography is by Norman Beauregard and the mood music for the show is by David Tessier. Tony Estrella is captivating as Hamlet whose heart is broken from the first scene on as he mourns the death of his beloved father. He plays the range of emotions in this role as he is plagued by doubts and conflict, erupting into anger at all the appropriate moments. Tony gives an eloquent portrayal as Hamlet as he vows revenge, he begins either his slow spiral into madness or puts on an act to only appear insane. Bravo on a tour-de-force performance.
The evil Claudius is well played by Steve Kidd. He captures the deviousness of this man as he plots against the true heir to the throne, having killed Hamlet's father. Steve is smarmy and untrustworthy as Claudius. His confrontation scenes with Hamlet and his conspiracy scenes with his cohorts are standout moments for him. Steve also shines in his monologue,too. Jeanine Kane who plays a much older character than her own true age, is remarkable as Gertrude especially in the confrontation scene with Hamlet where Polonius is killed. This sequence is electrifying as she believes Hamlet is mad after this altercation. She shows the strain and heartache at this estrangement from her son. Jeanine is also poignant in the final moments of Gertrude's life as she drinks from the cup that is poisoned. Sam Babbitt commands the stage as Polonius. He plays the role not as a buffoon but as a clever and well seasoned politician almost like a crafty Dick Cheney. Sam is 83 years old but has the energy of a much younger actor. He shows his acting prowess once again in this show and has a couple of funny moments as with a French accent and rustling candy paper during the playet scene. Gillian Williams is remarkable and ethereal as Ophelia as she makes the transition from young girl in love as she descends into madness. She makes the role her own and is very touching as Ophelia who reveals her grief and sexual repression in this madness. The Ophelia and Laertes scene is a true tear jerking moment when he finds his sister off kilter. Kelby T. Akin shines as Laertes, capturing the angst and torment at the loss of his father and sister. The fencing scene between Kelby and Tony is breathtaking. Kelby is fiery as Laertes who redeems himself at the close of the show as he believes Hamlet at last. Ben Gracia and Joe Short do a topnotch turn as Rosencrans and Guilderstern, Hamlet's school mates who are really the secret emissaries of Claudius and are out to betray their old friend. It wonderful seeing Joe back onstage, having last reviewed him as a student at URI. Tom Gleadow plays the ghost of Hamlet's father as well as the hilarious grave digger. The gut wrenching closing scene packs a powerful punch and is more than enough of a reason to catch this outstanding version of "Hamlet" at Gamm Theatre with sensational acting by one and all.