note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Carl A. Rossi
Barnardo, a watchman … Daniel Marmion
Horatio, a friend to Hamlet … Darren Ryan
Ghost, Hamlet’s dead father … Jay Painter
King Claudius, King of Denmark … Richard Sheridan Willis
Laertes, son of Polonius … Daniel Marmion
Lord Polonius, First minister to the King … Andy Patterson
Queen Gertrude, Mother of Hamlet … Natasha Piletich
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark … Andrew Schwartz
Ophelia, daughter of Polonius … Emily Bennett
Rosencrantz, a friend of Hamlet … Daniel Marmion
Guildenstern, a friend of Hamlet … Darren Ryan
Player King, actor in traveling company … Jay Painter
Player Queen, actor in traveling company … Daniel Marmion
Gravedigger, a clown … Jay Painter
Osric, servant to the King … Andy Patterson
“Hip, edgy, goosebump theatre” was the promotional description for the Aquila Theatre’s HAMLET that briefly played at the Majestic Theatre, backed by, “You’ve never seen HAMLET like this before”. Yes, the production was hip enough with its buzz-cut Prince in his Wittenberg T-shirt; yes, it was edgy enough with electronica blasting through scene changes; but, no, it didn’t give me goosebumps because I didn’t see what the Elizabethans saw: a crackling murder mystery laced with immortal poetry, and what was good enough for the Elizabethans is good enough for me.
The opening scene raised my hopes --- an actor standing alone on a bare, darkened stage became, miraculously, Barnardo at his haunted post, and the entrance of the court immediately following was exquisitely choreographed (chairs and screens being the scenery, throughout) --- but when Ophelia was discovered in her closet, bumping to disco music, and when Claudius and Gertrude scampered across the stage in bedsheets to demonstrate how “hot” they were, I began to smell “director” (here, one Robert Richmond) and I smelled him more and more as the alterations and edits accumulated: thus, Gertrude and Ophelia, two soft, silly women, easily led, went politically correct with Gertrude as what seemed to be a pants-suited Vice President and Ophelia, a willowy grad with a degree in parent-child psychology; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern burst in as Tweedledum-Tweedledee frat boys and Osric resembled a Truman Capote hitman. Some of the edits were painless --- i.e. the elimination of Francisco and the Second Gravedigger --- but the majority were not, based on who was doubling as whom: thus, Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern, once introduced, simply disappeared, their fate never revealed, while Osric was reduced to a Man with No Name; most startling of all, Gertrude, not Horatio, received news of Hamlet’s escape and thus wised up to her husband’s intentions and the evening concluded on “And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest” with neither drum nor Fortinbras coming hither --- true, I’ve never seen a HAMLET do that, before….
There are Shakespearean actors and those who try to be; the Aquila ensemble was comprised of both. On the debit side were Emily Bennett’s Ophelia --- flat-voiced and shrill, in and out of her Mad Scene (ah, the blessed silence upon her departure!) --- and Andrew Schwartz’s Hamlet which will be remembered for his strangulated sounds and geeky clowning --- a college student reeling from an all-nighter --- to Mr. Schwartz’s credit, he recited his arias stock still with a minimum of fussiness. Mr. Schwartz could only play his role as Nature allowed him; on the other hand, Andy Patterson had the instrument and presence to give breath to Polonius; garb him this way or that and Mr. Patterson would remain this scene-stealing prattler. Richard Sheridan Willis mechanically declaimed Claudius save for his confessional scene where he revealed a brooding romanticism more Hamlet-like than Mr. Schwartz could ever muster and Natasha Piletich’s rich purr yet cool resolve was better suited to a Lady McB. than her far-from-maternal Queen G. Jay Painter, the other Shakespearean, shone as a thawing Ghost glimpsed behind the upstage scrim and as a baggy-pants Gravedigger that the groundlings would have loved; Mr. Painter and Daniel Marmion together made a brilliant, masked Player King and Queen with Mr. Marmion uttering flutelike tones that registered as “feminine” --- brilliant, but a candle in Mr. Richmond’s winds.
And now on to Providence for Trinity Repertory’s upcoming production with a Hamlet to be played by Stephen Thorne, the actor in the troupe best suited for the role --- perhaps there some goosebumps may be found….