Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Hamlet"

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note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Beverly Creasey

A Palpable Hit
at Project Shakespeare

Reviewed by Beverly Creasey

It's not surprising that the students of Project Shakespeare are high as a kite after their bone-rattling production of "Hamlet". Performing, as the Bard might have said, stirs the blood. But the audience is high too --- and it's palpable; we are floating on a tidal wave of energy. Three hours of "carnage and unnatural death" flies by at the speed of light, transported a good deal of the time by the intensity of one David Jette as Hamlet.

If "the readiness is all" the cast is chomping at the bit to tell this tale of "murder most foul". Director Deborah Schoenberg inverts a speech or two for an affecting tableau at the beginning as an overview of the plot, instead of starting with the ghost of Hamlet's father (Schyler Bowditch). And Schoenberg's savvy casting gives oomph and an extra chuckle to scenes like Polonius' now highly charged transaction with a spy --- played in grand Mata Hari fashion by Kate Seavey.

These actors know "a hawk from a handsaw" which makes for a fiercely intelligent performance. Every action counts. Every actor counts, and most every speech is clear-spoken and clear in meaning.

Jette is a whirling dervish of a Hamlet, so consumed with outrage at his father's death that he hardly can contain his grief. When the line calls for him to "fall a-cursing" he hurls himself about the ground in frenzied distress. He may appear melancholy to the court but he's no shrinking violet. You literally feel his pain.

Schoenberg balances his fire with the reticence in his mother. Alexandra Hanson gives a poignant portrayal of a dazed queen, a weary, lost soul. Arjun Jaikumar is a Claudius so headstrong you understand why she gives herself over to his will. In the comedy department, Nathaniel Gundy delivers Polonius prattle with the perfect timing of a stand-up comic. Never has the line "your son is mad" seemed so hilarious.

Esme von Hoffman conveys a sweet gaiety to Ophelia's madness and Anthony Carrigan a gentle strength and nobility to Laertes. Rose Costello is a steadfast Horatio with Rachel Horst and Lauren Staniunas as honesty personified. Dylan Gamblin gets a funny cameo as the ditsy court toady and Simeon Teitelbaum (aided by Lisa Szolovits) makes the most of the gravedigger scene. Matisse Michalski and Drew Bucilla make winning spies Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and Staniunas, Szolovits, Samuel Slavin and Emily Galen make first rate Players in the play within the play. From Shannon Frederick's ambassador to Christopher Clinton's heroic Fortinbras, this harrowing to the soul "Hamlet" thrives on electricity. Coupled with a star-filled actual "overhanging firmament" this "Hamlet" will not soon be forgotten

"Hamlet" (21 & 22 August)
@ The Publick Theatre, Christian A. Herter Park, Soldiers Field Road, BOSTON
1(617) 782-5425

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide