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Hamlet

a Drama
CATEGORY :
by William Shakespeare

COMPANY : Georgia Shakespeare [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Conant Performing Arts Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 1605

SHOWING : June 07, 2006 - July 22, 2006

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Jasson Minadakis gives Shakespeare's classic a shot of adrenaline in this fast paced, exciting production. Featuring Daniel May as Hamlet.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Jasson Minadakis
Assistant Stage Manager Rita Ann Marcec
Hamlet Daniel May
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

Unbalanced
by Dedalus
Monday, June 12, 2006
3.0
Just because a production is “good enough” does not necessarily mean it’s good enough.

Once again, the Georgia Shakespeare Company is mounting “Hamlet,” that perennial Shaggy-Great-Dane story of politics and revenge and the o’erthrowing of a noble mind. I’ve seen many many Hamlet’s, more than you can shake a spear at, and participated in two myself. So, admittedly, I come into any new mounting with considerable bias and with way too many preconceptions. But, I also approach new productions with great anticipation – “Hamlet” is complex (and simple) enough that, even if you’ve seen a thousand performances, there’s always something new to find, a new scenic interpretation, or a new twist that can turn all preconceptions on their heads.

GS’s new production, directed by Actor’s Express’ Jason Minadakis, has some new ideas, and is one of the fastest-paced productions I’ve seen. But it is unbalanced by far too many choices that strive to be merely “good enough.”

Let’s start at the top (or, more accurately, the center). Daniel May is an actor whose work I greatly admire and respect. And here, his opening moments brilliantly capture the grief, the despair, the anger, and the fearsome awe at the ghosts’ appearance. But, once the plot is underway, it seemed to me like he put on the reins – his pseudo-mad scenes are calm and controlled, three steps back from that razor-edge that keeps everyone (including us) wondering if the madness is real or feigned. This is especially true in the “Get thee to a Nunnery” scene with Ophelia. It comes across not as the feigned mad outburst fueled by Hamlet’s belief in Ophelia’s betrayal (the way I’ve always interpreted the scene), but as brotherly advice, no more intense than the early scene in which Laertes advises Ophelia to keep his distance from Hamlet. Afterwards, when Ophelia laments about his noble mind’s overthrow, I was left wondering if she was watching the same character I was.

As fast-paced and energetic as the production was, it was also slowed down by a less-than-enthusiastic Polonius. To me, every Polonius line seemed to be delivered at the same pace, at the same volume, with the same lack of urgency. As I said above, many many interpretations are possible in this play, for all characters and all scenes. I felt this interpretation, though, to be unsupported by the text, and to be destructive of the overall pacing of the show. Other characters, though more energetically portrayed, also missed many opportunities for wit, eccentricity, or individuality (Horatio, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, the Players, and Osric all seemed to disappear into the background).

The physical conception also left me somewhat cold. An open trap center stage provided many interesting moments when it was being used. When it wasn’t, it was just in the way, an over-obvious symbol that scenes had to be blocked around. Especially awkward was a moment in which Claudius and Gertrude had to stretch over it to hold hands. The wooden platform which was the main set piece was simple, functional, and provided many opportunities for interesting stage “pictures.” But it carried no symbolic or representational weight – it didn’t detract from the play. For this reason, I suppose it was “good enough.” I just don’t think it really added anything to the play.

There were things to admire here. I liked the opening with Hamlet sitting alone amid the Guards’ scene, I liked the initial Laertes/Ophelia scene, I liked the staging of Hamlet’s letter to Ophelia, I liked Hamlet’s taking the role of the villain in the play before the king, I liked Brad Sherrill’s Claudius and Tess Malis Kincaid’s Gertrude and Chris Kayser’s Gravedigger, I liked the the sound design in the ghost scenes, I liked the confrontation scene when Claudius sends Hamlet off to England, I liked the edits in the script (of course some all-time favorite lines were missed, but the cuts left a consistent whole that held together), and I really REALLY liked the final scene with Hamlet staying on his feet until the poison took effect (oh, how I hate seeing Hamlets lying forever in Horatio’s arms taking forever to die …).

In effect, Georgia Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” is an unbalanced affair, with the interesting stuff far outweighed by the “been-there-seen-that-done-better” stuff. A little more unbalance in Hamlet’s mad scenes would have good a long way to offset this. One of my biases with Georgia Shakespeare is its risky tendency to reinterpret and reimagine the classics. Going the “good enough” route is just not enough for me anymore.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


A Postscript Digression: A few decades back, Derek Jacobi edited a “Hamlet” edition. In its prologue, he makes the case for the “To Be or Not To Be” speech to be not a soliloquy, but a direct address to Ophelia. His case is strong – it makes sense considering Hamlet’s previous scene, it provides an incredibly powerful launch of the "Get thee to a nunnery" scene, it enhances the Hamlet/Ophelia relationship, and it sets the stage for Ophelia'’ fate. This approach was used in one of the productions I was part of and worked very well. I’d love to see another production try it out …




[POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Oo! Interesting by EKFricke
Hi Brad:
You write an interesting review here, and it has piqued my interest...

I've been meaning to see a show at Georgia Shakes ever since I took a class w/ Chris. I volunteer at the tavern - and while I love them to death there, I do long for a less traditionalist approach.

Anway - to make a long comment short. I'm gonna have to go get me a ticket so's I can refute or corroborate this here review.

Enjoyed reading it though - cheers!

Liz
Upgrading by Dedalus
From the "Time-Makes-Things-Seem-Better" Department, I've upgraded my original 2-star rating to 3. Why? Two things -- the long list of stuff I liked about this production, and the really strong last scene. My original lower score was the result of my disappointments in Hamlet's Unbalancing act, and Polonius' choices, admittedly big things in any Hamlet. But, as weak endings tend to diminish otherwise strong plays, strong endings can (and do, with a little time) have the opposite effect.

Brad

PS -- Thanks for the kind words, Liz. I know Sarah at GSF is always looking for ushers. Maybe you won't have to pay ... :-)


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