Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

Great Lakes Theater
Review by Review by David Ritchey

Laura Welsh Berg
Photo by Roger Mastroianni
What a pleasure to see two versions of Hamlet in two days. The Great Lakes Theater recently offered two editions of Hamlet. In one version a woman, Laura Welsh Berg, played Hamlet and in the second version a man, Jonathan Dyrud, played Hamlet. Everyone else in the cast remained the same for both productions.

Of course, the two productions were different. The versions would be different if two men had played Hamlet or two women had played Hamlet.

Both actors had short cropped hair. Both were dressed in black with white shirts—either costume could be appropriate for a woman or a man. One of the tests of the quality of the gender's role was the sword fight near the end of the play. The fights were choreographed by Lynn Robert Berg and both fight sequences seemed identical. Each actor had a strong voice, which seemed to fill the theater (yes, they wore microphones).

Laura Welsh Berg played the role as a strong woman, not a woman pretending to be a man. This Hamlet took the stage and made it her own. She rationalizes not killing the King in order not to send him in his prayers to heaven. Yet, the audience knew this Hamlet could plunge the dagger into the King without a moment of regret or desperation.

Women have played Hamlet since 1776 when Mrs. Sarah Siddons took the role. In 1899, Sarah Bernhardt played the part. Other actresses have played Hamlet with varying degrees of success. Laura Welsh Berg played Hamlet with success.

Dyrud is a young man and played Hamlet as a young, energetic man. When he kissed Ophelia everyone in the room knew this long, passionate kiss was part of his love and lust for Ophelia. However, he was hesitant to marry Ophelia because he didn't know what would happen to him when he killed the King. Dyrud paced the stage like a caged lion, desperate to get revenge for his father's murder.

Jonathan Dyrud
Photo by Roger Mastroianni
The other cast members were excellent. Especially fine were David Anthony Smith and Erin Partin. David Anthony Smith, as the Claudio King of Denmark, seemed to be in charge of Elsinore Castle and all of Denmark. Erin Partin made Ophelia breathtaking in her beauty and her slow, steady decline into madness and death. She was the best Ophelia I've seen. She complemented both actors playing Hamlet and enhanced their excellent performances.

Charles Fee (director) performed a masterful job with his two Hamlets. The two actors made Hamlet an exciting character. Second, Fee kept the pace of the show moving at a quick rhythm without the performances seeming rushed. Fee removed most references to the Fortinbras subplot. The production did not suffer from this clipping.

Scenic designer Russell Metheny attempted to create the circular seating available in the Globe Theatre. Metheny had two rows of seats upstage with a framed doorway and opening between the rows of stage seating. The stage seating had been church pews, including hymnal racks and the little holes for holding the communion cups. I sat in one of those church pew seats for the first act of one performance. I had trouble hearing and seeing. I was able to move to a seat on the front row for the second act and liked that seating much more.

Kim Krumm Sorenson (costume designer) dressed the cast in appropriate Elizabethan costumes.

This was a fine production. We could only wish it would run for several months.

An interesting footnote to the productions of Hamlet is Tom Hanks played Reynaldo in the 1977 production of Hamlet by the Great Lakes Theater.

Great Lakes Theater's Hamlet played March 31 through April 15, 2017, at the Hanna Theatre. For information on the company, please visit

Hamlet: Laura Welsh Berg and Jonathan Dyrud
King of Denmark: David Anthony Smith
Ghost of Old Hamlet: Lynn Robert Berg
Gertrude: Laura Perrotta
Polonius: Dougfred Miller
Laertes: Nick Steen
Ophelia: Erin Partin
Reynaldo: M. A. Taylor
Horatio: Christopher Tocco
Rosencrantz: Laura Welsh Berg and Jonathan Dyrud
Guildenstern: Patrick John Kiernan
Marcellus: Aled Davies
Barnardo: Tyler Collins
Francisco: Patrick John Kiernan
Players: Lynn Robert Berg, Jodi Dominick, Trevor Buda and Tyler Collins
Gravedigger: Aled Davies
Other gravedigger: M. A. Taylor
Attendants, Messengers, Priest: Jodi Dominick, Dougfred Miller, Tyler Collins and Trevor Buda
Scenic Designer: Russell Metheny
Costume Designer: Kim Krumm Sorenson
Lighting Designer: Rick Martin
Sound Designer: Matthew Webb
Fight Choreographer: Ken Merckx
Text and Speech Coaches: Lynn Robert Berg and Dougfred Miller
Director: Charles Fee

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