Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Live Theatre Review: Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival's Hamlet

WARNING: This review contains spoilers regarding both Hamlet in general and this production in specific

Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival’s production of Hamlet marks the 25th anniversary of the festival. The production is a break from the traditional with the original play abridged to roughly half its running time at just over two hours. It also sets the play in modern times, which means cell phones, selfies, and firearms. Additionally, Laertes (Krys Parker), Rosenkrantz (Kelly Ainsworth), and Guildenstern (Courtney Poston) are all female characters, with the latter pair portrayed as part of the stereotypical self-obsessed youth culture to a very comical effect.

Kyle Schnack as Hamlet brings an energy to the Prince of Denmark, playing off the audience with a quick wit. He even shows off his own crest tattoo, as the actor is of Danish descent. Darryl Willis is delightful as the tedious Polonius, such that one is almost sorry that he meets his tragic end. Carly Lopez stuns with her portrayal of Ophelia’s betrayal, heartbreak, and descent into madness. She captures the heartstrings even posthumously as her sister Laertes laments her passing.

The character of Horatio, played by Seth Trucks, plays a pinnacle role in this production, a point emphasized by his costume. The majority of the residents of Elsinore are clad in white, while those outside – and perhaps, symbolically, in opposition to them – are dressed in black. Hamlet bears the funereal color as he continues to mourn his father’s death (thus visually serving as an antagonist to his uncle the king) as do the grave digger and the players who unveil the king with their play-within-a-play. Those whose loyalties are possibly divided are clad in black and white, but only Horatio and Old Hamlet’s ghost (Zach Myers) wear gray, perhaps suggesting that it is Horatio’s role to serve as the bridge between Hamlet and his father, between conflict and resolution. The play opens and closes on Horatio and what he sees and he spends much of the play as the quiet observer, sussing out the motives of all around him. He is the one to bring the news to Hamlet of his father’s ghostly unrest and the one left behind, charged to go forth and tell the story of the events as they unfolded. Horatio, dressed in gray, is chosen to be the middle ground between the black and the white.

For such an abridged version of Hamlet, director Trent Stephens has crafted an excellent theatre experience, filled with comic relief (albeit some unintentional – the line “It’s cold” generally gets a chuckle from the sweaty audience). This Hamlet is a show worthy of being watched again and again.

Hamlet runs at the Seabreeze Amphitheatre at Carlin Park in Jupiter, FL, Thursday-Sunday, July 9 – 19. Gates at 6:30, show at 8:00. This is an outdoor festival, so bring camp chairs or a blanket, your picnic, bug spray, sunscreen, emergency rain ponchos, and your well-behaved pets and young people, if so inclined. Arrive early enough and you can even have the grave digger recite you a sonnet for the reasonable price of $5 with bonus Yorick accompaniment. Also, this is a free show, but your suggested donation of $5 is the lifeblood of the program and wonderful events such as this depend on your patronage, so bring your wallet and give freely to support the arts!

Finally, as this is technically a music blog, I must note that the soundtrack to the show is dynamic and addicting (I’ll admit to having purchased all the songs I could identify) and even the before, after, and intermission music is amazing.

Lena Fayre
Emily Browning
Imagine Dragons