Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Craig Baldwin has recreated Michael Kahn's original direction, which brings William Shakespeare's tragedy into a contemporary setting powered by suspicion and surveillance. John Coyne's scenic design turns the Danish palace at Elsinore into a world of severe metal walls and security cameras, where Secret Service-like guards inspect visitors and the ghost of Hamlet's father (Keith Baxter) appears on closed-circuit television monitors.
Bristling intelligence is the core of Urie's portrayal: Hamlet's eyes seem to glow as he tries to take in his father's death, his mother's marriage to his father's brother, and his uncle succeeding his father as king of Denmark. While he's cerebral to the point of living inside his own head, he's also demonstrative when he needs to be, open and genuine with his friend Horatio (Federico Rodriguez) and thrilled to greet the company of traveling actors. (Baxter, a matchless actor and director with six decades of credits, appears as the Player King and the garrulous Gravedigger as well as the Ghost.)
Ayana Workman plays Ophelia as an innocent teenager, trading texts with Hamlet but unaware of the darker currents surrounding her. (She's horrified that anyone might think her bond with Hamlet is sexual.) This fragility may foreshadow her later collapse, but it also brings out the underside of Hamlet's anguish as he targets her.
Robert Joy plays Polonius as outwardly avuncular but as manipulative as the guilt-ridden Claudius (Alan Cox). Not only does this Polonius do what the kingdom asks of him, he spies on his own children, sending a spy to shadow Laertes (Paul Deo Jr.) in Paris or electronically eavesdropping on Ophelia and Hamlet. Cox has the sleek exterior of a politician, and Madeleine Potter is both elegant and despairing as Gertrude.
Jess Goldstein's costume designs bring color to the grim monochrome settings, notably Potter's gowns and the 1940s-style traveling outfits for the players.
Shakespeare Theatre Company-Free for All