William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” holds a reputation for being Shakespeare’s longest play and for having some of the most famous lines in the history of theater. (“To be or not to be- that is the question” and “Alas poor Yorick, I knew him well.”)
The Theatre Arts Department began performing Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” their spring production, on April 11 in Theatre 1 of the Staller Center.
Shakespeare wrote “Hamlet” in what many believe was the early 17th century at the famed Globe Theatre in London. The story details Prince Hamlet’s (sophomore cinema and cultural studies major Pinkhas Nisanov) demise after his father’s murder. His father’s ghost appears to tell him that Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle (junior psychology major Matthew Fine), poisoned the late king. Meanwhile, Claudius has married Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude (sophomore theatre arts major Meghan Ames) and has assumed the throne. Hamlet vows to avenge his father’s death while dealing with his affections for the mentally deteriorating Ophelia (sophomore theatre arts major Molly Warren.)
Valarie Clayman Pye, an adjunct professor in the theatre arts department who has worked as a voice and speech coach since graduating the university in 1992, adapted and directed the show. Of all of the people involved, she probably deserves a large portion of the credit. “Hamlet” might be Shakespeare’s longest show, but it did not seem that way.
At first, one would expect that Hamlet (Nisanov) would deteriorate almost immediately. He does not, but when he does, it is evident that Nisanov has a strange affinity for playing strange characters.
Of all the performances, Ophelia’s (Warren’s) was definitely the strongest. Her final break with reality is heartbreaking and it would be safe to say that there was not a heart in the audience that was not dislodged into a stomach.
The lighting design was clever. Whenever Hamlet and his subconscious took the stage alone, he went to a darker mindset and the lighting followed when a once bright stage turned to near darkness.
The biggest flaw of the production had to do with scene changes. Despite the stage crew’s rehearsal, they forgot to remove certain elements from the stage in between scenes. Items from a graveyard found themselves in the royal palace until one of the actors nonchalantly picked it up in character.
The choice to add two actors (sophomore theathre arts major Eliza Tunstall- Weiner and freshman theatre arts major Katherine Gorham) to play Hamlet’s subconscious (H2 and H3) was definitely an interesting choice and different than traditional stagings of the critically-acclaimed play. However, there were times that all three actors were meant to be in sync but were slightly off.
The theatre set-up was intriguing. With a circular stage and seating surrounding the stage, a really intimate setting was created. According to the director’s note, the theatre was set up to resemble Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. On the other hand, the audience did get its fair share of the actors’ backs.
Despite some small technical flaws, the Theatre Arts Department’s production of “Hamlet” is definitely a refreshing activity for a Saturday night. However, people who are not familiar with Shakespeare should definitely read some “Sparknotes” beforehand. And those who cannot handle “No Fear Shakespeare” should probably just stick to the Disney version of “Hamlet”— “The Lion King.”
This week performances will take place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Staller Center.