Hamlet is a damn fine play. But you already know that.
Full of shadows and revenge, rage and tragedy, the text is a beacon for those who love drama and the theater. The story entices, almost demands, artists to re-tell and share the tale. While the plot may appear familiar, it bubbles with subtext, inviting interpretation and creativity as it horrifically winds its way to its outcome.
Trimming the play down to a well-paced two and half hours, director Kevin Maguire excises some of the Bard’s arguable baggage without losing the play’s subtle humor or truncating the trip into the Dane’s madness. The setting is shifted to “between the wars” allowing some fascinating design choices.
WHERE: Capital Rep, 111 N. Pearl St., Albany
WHEN: Through May 10
HOW MUCH: $60-$20
MORE INFO: 346-6204, www.capitalrep.org
Evoking a neglected urban landscape with a steel staircase, fire escapes and bridged walkways, Roman Tatarowicz’s set, creates the murky world of a wounded and worn out city. Easily transforming from dark moor to graveyard to castle rooms, the setting is rife with lurking menace and shadow.
To report that David Zyla’s costumes are “smart and appropriate” is a massive understatement. They are meticulously designed to complement and underscore the character’s moods and they do so brilliantly. Add into the mix Ryan O’Gara’s wonderful lighting and Michael Roth’s incredibly effective soundscape and you have a well designed, handsome production.
McGuire has assembled a great mix of local professionals with jobbed-in artists to create a tight and talented ensemble. Local vet Terry Rabine moves from ghost to player King to gravedigger with an ease that impresses. None more satisfyingly than in a comic scene with the brilliant Christopher McCann (who doubles as an engaging and befuddled Polonius). Patrick Vaill’s Laertes proves an absorbing fine foil to Hamlet. The whole cast is splendid. Including the title character.
David Kenner’s Hamlet is excellent. Each one of Hamlet’s six famous soliloquies lands natural and devoid of artifice — not an easy feat. The nervousness, the self-doubt and rage are all palpable.
But here’s my small quibble. In this production of the quintessential story of revenge and madness, Hamlet fails to weave a thread of sustained threat. Menace and danger pop forth in excellent spurts creating the violent unease needed to propel the story, but the intellectual calm of the young man in crisis, well played and enticing when it appears, often plays too fast, obscuring the internal conflict that tortures.
This appears to be a directorial choice, perhaps in fear that it would bog down the pace. But when Kenner explores the calm conflict, as in the brilliant moment when he raises a dagger above the head of the praying King — goosebumps.
It’s a great moment with the full and honest view of the character’s inner conflict. Kenner’s scenes with his mother Gertrude, played by a luminous and shattering Deanne Lorette, crackle with just the right spark.
No doubt about it, it’s a stunning achievement for Cap Rep — another feather in the cap of a fine season. Despite my quibble, it’s an exciting and un-missable production.