'Hamlet' at Hartford Stage

By Marlene S. Gaylinn

Fall is the season for ghosts, graves, and gravediggers and this is the perfect time for Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” While we are surrounded by the misty moodiness of bare woodlands and decaying leaves, at Hartford Stage we step back in time to learn that something is else is “...rotten in the State of Denmark.” Prince Hamlet’s life has suddenly changed due to his father’s untimely death. The fact that his mother is now married to his uncle (father’s brother) and the untimely wedding celebration took place while the son was still in mourning is cruel and emotionally unbearable. Hamlet’s suspicions are confirmed when the dead king, in the form of a ghost, relates that his death was due to murder. What follows are the consequences of greed and revenge. Evidently politics and emotions have not changed very much.

If you ever thought that Shakespeare was boring, you’re in for a surprise. Under the direction of Tony Award-Winner Darko Tresnjak, who also designed the inventive scenery, this is truly one of the most enjoyable productions of “Hamlet” that we’ve seen.

Everything about the production is clear. The acting is so absorbing, the characters are so believable and the words are paced so well, that you don’t even have to know American English to understand each sentence and follow the plot. Thanks to fight director, J. Allen Suddeth, there’s enough boot strutting and exciting, sword swinging to satisfy all the would-be swashbucklers in the audience. In addition, Fabio Toblini designed Elizabethan costumes that could put museum paintings to shame, and Matthew Richards’ lighting and Jane Shaw’s sound set the suspenseful mood throughout. Without giving too much away, the stunning, a final tableau is so meaningful and special that it will forever linger in the mind.

Zach Appelman plays the highly coveted role of “Hamlet.” There have been so many great actors who made this difficult role famous that it’s hard to believe that such a young man would be able to study the depth of this character and reinterpret it – no doubt according to Director Tesnjak’s vision. There were complex sides to Hamlet that we’ve never explored, in fact, after seeing this production we were unsure if we should have rooted for him or not. Whatever the case might be, Appelman certainly got our full attention and in the end, gained our sympathy for his character.

Andrew Long was the sly, King Claudius and he also played the majestic Ghost of Hamlet’s Father. Kate Forbes was the foolish, fickle, Queen Gertrude. Edward Hyland, was the loyal, Polonius who made the audience laugh because he was never at a loss for proper words. Brittany Vicars as the frail, jilted Ophelia, reminded us of the mad scene in the ballet “Giselle.” Her brother, Laertes, was the dashing Anthony Roach.

This play is highly recommended and well worth a trip to Hartford!
Plays to November 16
Tickets: 860-520-7114


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