Hamlet at ACT Theatre
Timing is everything, and production inadequacies notwithstanding, White Raven Theatre Company's Hamlet at ACT Theatre is simply the wrong show at the wrong time. Director Bob White tells Shakespeare's tragic tale of royal malice at Elsinore castle with reasonable clarity and decent pacing, and several members of his cast are better than average. But there is nothing distinctive or original enough about this Hamlet to compel an audience, especially when light escapist entertainment is what's currently luring the masses.
Mark Rabe is a solid and sincere Prince of Denmark, happily impish at times, and a few moments of scenery chewing do not mar the overall quality of his work. Rabe is especially fine in his scenes with Maggie Stenson's regal and luminous Queen Gertrude, the most successful in the show. The actress fills her silences and reactions admirably, and is notably successful at making the Bard's language seem conversational. Eric Hartley sidesteps the pomposity that overtakes some actors who play Polonius and doubles with a welcome sense of comic timing as the Gravedigger. Hana Lass makes a good impression in her early scenes as Ophelia, but seems to need more guidance to keep Ophelia's mad scenes from being too shrill and monotonous.
Nathan Breskin-Auer's Claudius is too contemporary and non-threatening, while Shawn Law is strident as Laertes. Quite a few of the lesser male roles, including Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, are played in this staging by women, but none of the actresses are particularly successful in their cross-gendered roles.
Set designer Daniel E. Walker makes good use of the built-in staircases and overhead playing areas, all too infrequently utilized in other plays staged at ACT's intimate Bullit Cabaret space, enhanced effectively by Jon Harmon's lighting design. Lee Ann Hittenberger's costumes show no signs of budget constraints, and has especially done well with Gertrude's handsome ensembles.
This Hamlet is notably less ponderous and pompous than the overrated Peter Brook version seen here a few years back, but it simply tests one's patience in the current state of the world to watch this time honored tragedy when we are having a far sadder one broadcast into our home screens on a daily basis.
Hamlet at ACT Theatre, 700 Union Street in downtown Seattle, through April 19. For further information go the ACT web-site at www.acttheatre.org.