The Classical Theatre Company presents William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Produced at the Pearl Company and directed by Gary Santucci. He describes it as a “lean essence” of Hamlet based on Laurence Olivier’s 1953 film version. It’s palatable “coles notes” version that pushes the utility of the Pearl to its extremes but despite striking costuming and a dedicated cast never quite reaches the passion needed to support the bloodshed.
The venue of the Pearl is quite small for such a palatial production, but they did manage to expand the space into three distinct areas that provided an impressive range. Lighting was difficult though so when dealing with the Ghost scenes, for example, actors seemed trapped by the confines of available light. This didn’t give the actors the type of physical range they needed to respond to the apparition in a realistic manner. This interaction sets the tone for the whole production. It must capture our imagination and awe in order to justify the carnage that follows.
Similar blocking issues throughout obstructed the productions possibility. Having the head of the dead Polonius hanging just outside the curtain during the exchange with Hamlet and his mother verged on comical and pulled focus from the scene. Small things like insuring that actors are always on angles instead of side by side would have easily cleared up visibility problems. Shakespeare is complicated as both the language and the themes require an audience to pay attention. The director must facilitate this by providing maximum visibility.
The words and the body language should be telling a story. If the body language doesn’t support the words, the production will be at a disadvantage despite the vocal ability of the actor. For example, both Peter Anderson as Hamlet and Matt Dafoe as Laertes are good actors who vocally meet the demands of their characters, yet if their intentions were judged by their blocking alone, their individual relationships with Ophelia may be confusing. The director needs to remember that some people are seeing Hamlet for the first time, and they need all the support they can get in understanding the motivations and relationships in the piece: who is the brother and who is the lover?
This cast is for the most part costumed well. They make a great visual impression, and further, they collectively feel like a cast that has worked quite hard and come a long way in their individual abilities. Andrew Rodwell, as King Claudius has a unique voice and strikes an impressive figure on stage. Valerie Harrison as Queen Gertrude is stunning in her royal gowns and Nicholas Ruddick gives a great rendition of the voice of the Ghost and the classic Gravedigger scene. This was a cast with both ability and possibility.
I’m sure this production provided a high learning curve for everyone involved and that’s the great thing about Shakespeare and about theatre. Both the performers and the audience will be challenged, will learn, and will expand their capacity to understand one another. I would highly recommend this production to young people who are currently reading or have read Hamlet already. It will help solidify your understanding of the text but in an enjoyable two hour period. V
August 8 –10 doors at 7PM
The Pearl Company
16 Steven St.