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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Hamlet

Hamlet
Justin Adams and Graham Michael Hamilton
Unlike some of the wildly imaginative Shakespearean visions displayed at Washington's Folger Theatre—for example, a Measure for Measure that incorporated puppetry and a Macbeth with illusions designed by the magician Teller—the company's current production of Hamlet boasts just one unique feature, but it's a good one. Francesca Talenti has converted the play-within-a-play into a video presentation, which spills across James Kronzer's pristine white set and keeps the onstage audience at the center of the action.

Aside from that bravura moment, the play as presented in modern dress by director Joseph Haj is fairly straightforward, using a cast of 12. The familiar soliloquies are there, while discreet cuts to the script keep the run time to less than three hours.

Graham Michael Hamilton gives Hamlet the necessary melancholy of a grieving young man, along with an existential sense of aimlessness suggested by Kronzer's forbidding, featureless image of the castle at Elsinore. Jan Chambers' costume design echoes the overall grimness with its focus on black, white and shades of gray; aside from the casually dressed hipsters Rosencrantz (Billy Finn) and Guildenstern (Dan Crane), no one wears colors until the second act.

Haj has found clever, sometimes amusing modern counterparts to William Shakespeare's characters. Claudius (David Whalen), Hamlet's uncle who has usurped both the throne and the late king's wife, is a confident figure in a military uniform, attended by the sycophantic aide Osric (Jonathan Lee Taylor); Gertrude (Deborah Hazlett) is every inch the circumspect political wife in her sleek white suit. On the other hand, Polonius (Stephen Patrick Martin) is not the boring old man he can be; he's sleek and comfortable with court intrigue, although at a disadvantage when faced with Hamlet's withering cynicism. Justin Adams is an impassioned Laertes, and Lindsey Wochley a heartrending Ophelia.

The small cast allows for some felicitous doubling: Scofield, who plays the sorrowful Ghost and the bombastic Player King, and Martin return as the drily witty gravediggers.

Folger Theatre
Hamlet
April 21st June 6th
By William Shakespeare
Laertes: Justin Adams
Horatio: Lea Coco
Guildenstern/Bernardo/Fortinbras: Dan Crane
Rosencrantz/Marcellus: Billy Finn
Francisco/Voltemand/Prologue: Michael Glenn
Hamlet: Graham Michael Hamilton
Gertrude/Player Queen: Deborah Hazlett
Polonius/Gravedigger: Stephen Patrick Martin
Ghost/Player King/Gravedigger: Todd Scofield
Osric/Player: Jonathan Lee Taylor
Claudius/Lucianus: David Whalen
Ophelia: Lindsey Wochley
Directed by Joseph Haj
201 E. Capitol St., S.E.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-544-7077 or www.folger.edu


Photo: Carol Pratt


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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