Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
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.