Written by Alina Mae Wilson
The visual beauty. The talented cast. The perfectly straightforward technique that does not simply present but improves upon the Shakespearean script though utilization of the “show-don’t-tell” method of storytelling. It is the experience so many of us have been waiting for —Hamlet –and it’s over in Garden Grove.
The famed story of the brooding Danish prince searching for a way to avenge his late father’s murder is a classic in it’s own right. It contains various suspenseful moments as well as some authentically philosophical questions. Prince Hamlet is called upon to strike down his treacherous uncle from his place of comfort upon the throne, but he spends a great majority of the story contemplating the correct course of action from both a moral and a righteous standpoint. Hamlet is so famous –and the Bard himself so frequently studied –it is something of a challenge to make anything about his classical plays fresh, interesting, and most importantly, straightforward. Shakespeare OC’s Hamlet directed by Peter Uribe has succeeded spectacularly in all of those areas.
Allow me to dive right into why this production is a standout, and it comes down to “show-don’t-tell.” It’s a prominent characteristic of many successful stories today. Do not simply tell us what happens, show us. But for William Shakespeare’s plays, exposition is key. Before today I always believed there was no other way to see a Shakespearean tragedy without resigning one’s heart and mind to unending chatter about what happened once somewhere else. Written in Shakespeare’s particular English dialect, these plays can often be a struggle to understand. Peter Uribe conquered these trials by adopting the “show-don’t-tell” method often utilized in modern stories. Instead of Hamlet’s uncle Claudius simply standing and preaching to us about his current marital circumstances, we get to witness the transition from funeral to wedding. As opposed to sitting bewildered while Ophelia prattles about Hamlet grabbing her and staring into her eyes (I actually read this play straight through and still had no idea why Hamlet had acted this way) we get to actually see Hamlet carry out this action. As such we have a better idea of why he does it and what might be going on in his head during this particular action. Laertes’ family is actually granted leave to embrace and interact with each other as if they are a family. They come across like a family. This and more makes the overall story more comprehensible and more of a pleasure to watch.
Another aspect that makes this Hamlet much more of a pleasure to watch is the costume design. Wealthy people dolled up in colorful courtier attire keep your gaze from wondering for the duration of the story, and instead of the typical wooden stage actors often traipse around on in the Strawberry Bowl Theater –a gray and black sheeted material is draped over the stage –keeping with the eery and tragic nature of the story.
Every actor onstage is excellent. Tess Lina as Gertrude is both regal and maternal, as you might expect the mother of the Prince to be. Her loving pain and devotion to her son is evident in every scene they interact in, as well as her real confusion at what appear to be recently addled wits. John Walcutt somehow manages to be both pompous and sympathetic as the nefarious King Claudius, while Napoleon Tavale is so headstrong and righteous as Laertes you easily find yourself rooting for him. The main man himself, Hamlet, is played by David Denman. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. It is extremely easy for Hamlet to come across as a weak and impotent man whining in the darkness. Given that he is miserable for the duration of the story it’s hard for us in the audience to understand why anyone would like him in the first place. This is not an issue with Denman. His portrayal of our most anguished liege is different, undoubtedly aided by his physical appearance. Tall, broad shouldered, and bearded, the leading man has an easy masculinity about him that allows you to see him as “normal.” It’s easy to believe that before all this began he was favored and adored as the prime “everyman” many aspired to both be and be near. When he is amongst his friends he is still focused on his task at hand, but he has the attitude of a person who was once a social butterfly, which is entirely new to this dark and peculiar world of ghosts, murder, and treason.
Hamlet is set up in a manner that makes it visually beautiful, well acted, and fairly easy to comprehend. The show is cut down to two and a half hours. Although I am missing some of the lines ( “I am too much i’ the sun” can be awesome when delivered right) the overall message is delivered in a powerful and fantastically entertaining way. It’s recommended to all, whether you are a high school student or someone just simply in the mood for a good retelling of one of the Bard’s classics.
July 7th – July 23rd 2016
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