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REVIEW: "Hamlet"

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Luke Eddy in Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park's new production of "Hamlet."
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Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park has moved back to the Water Stage to end its summer season with Hamlet. The production feels rudderless for various reasons.

The director D. Lance Marsh has inserted himself into the show and not subtly. It’s Shakespeare’s dialog, but the speech, gestures and inflections are twenty-first-century American. Marsh has made judicious cuts to this long play, but the production still runs three hours.

So, what do we have with this Hamlet? The audience does not see the ghost of Hamlet’s father, although the characters onstage do seem to see him. Eerie music (modern and recorded) marks the ghost’s presence until we hear him via the amplified voice of Mark Johnson.

Hamlet speaks his “To be or not to be” soliloquy directly to Ophelia while they are sitting on the floor like a couple of teens in a dorm room. Later, Hamlet lays a wet one on Ophelia just before he orders her to get herself to a nunnery. The (female) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern appear to be lovers (played by the real-life couple Korri Werner and Isaiah Werner).

Luke Eddy does a fine job as Hamlet. The prince he and Marsh have fashioned does not handle his troubles well. He even resorts to cutting himself, like some youths today. Eddy’s Hamlet seems to have been driven mad by the murder of this much-admired father and his mother’s subsequent marriage to the murderer, who is Hamlet’s uncle. Or is Hamlet feigning insanity? It’s hard to tell.

Scholars disagree about Hamlet’s age. He’s a college student, so Elizabethans would expect him to be a teenager. Eddy appears to be well beyond his teens. Marsh deemphasizes Hamlet’s youthfulness, but he does not explain why a man who should have some life experience has so much trouble dealing with “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” and “the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” Ay, there’s the rub.

Jeffrey Ambrosini makes a somewhat epicene Claudius, who murdered Hamlet’s father. His performance becomes more appealing as the play progresses. The reliable Kathryn McGill plays Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother. Julia Waits is fine as Ophelia, who goes crazy herself. As Polonius, Mark Branson hides behind one arras too many.

With men in tights and women in gowns, the generic costumes (by Andy Wallach) could be used for about any Shakespeare play. OSP and we theatergoers are already suffering the loss of the company’s long-time costume designer extraordinaire Robert Pittenridge, who died in July. He and his work will be sorely missed.

As with The Taming of the Shrew earlier this summer, OSP has rotated the set on the Water Stage about 45 degrees to stage right. This move brings the actors closer to the audience and improves the theater’s acoustics. It’s amazing how much this enhances the experience of seeing a play in this theater.

According to the dramaturg’s note, this is OSP’s fifth staging of Hamlet in the company’s 33 seasons. Alas, the production lacks anything new or insightful about the play.

Hamlet
Thursday, September 28th, 2017 8:00pm to Saturday, September 30th, 2017 8:00pm
Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park
301 W. Reno
Oklahoma City, OK 73102
405-235-3700
Prices from: $15.00

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About the Author

Larry Laneer

Larry Laneer has reviewed theater for several Oklahoma City publications.  He has...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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