Is Hamlet really crazy or just pretending like he says? Scholars, students and audiences have pondered the answer to this question, along with many others, over the years. Its answer, however, can still be debated today thanks to the amazing storytelling of Georgia Shakespeare and the mesmerizing performance of Joe Knezevich.
On a quest to avenge his father’s murder, Hamlet wrestles with his own grief and anger, and he rages through the play trying to expose Claudius as the murder. His situation becomes complicated when he inadvertently kills Polonius, Laertes (Neal A. Ghant) and Ophelia’s (Ann Marie Gideon) father, causing Ophelia to go into her madness and Laertes on his quest for vengeance. Claudius seizes on this opportunity to kill Hamlet, but things don’t end up going as planned.
Knezevich holds the play together brilliantly, and his take on the indecisive and melancholy Hamlet is nothing short of amazing. He broods, he lashes out, he goes insane, and he delivers the lines effortlessly. Likewise, Allan Edwards creates a memorable and witty Polonius, making the character’s ironic statements funnier. As Gertrude, Carolyn Cook is striking. She gives a sense of grace and dignity to the character that help her to stand out among the other cast members. Gideon’s Ophelia is lackluster at the start, but by her final scene, her performance is remarkable.
Under the direction of Richard Garner, the cast displays brilliant characterizations of these familiar characters. Garner brings a fresh interpretation to the play with interesting choices such as moving the “To be or not to be” monologue to an earlier scene as it appears in the early versions of the play. He also chooses to end the play at the end of the fencing tournament instead of with the invasion of Fortinbras, which works well without taking away of the story’s impact.
Giving the classic a modern twist, Sydney Roberts has crafted a costume design that captures the characters well. In addition, Kendall Simpson’s music compliments the staging perfectly. Kat Conley’s set design is simple, consisting of two mirrors and props situated around the stage, but it provides a much deeper look at the themes of the play. Much like how Hamlet’s mirror imagery highlights human nature, these mirrors illuminate the hidden and not so hidden nature of the characters.
An enthralling and fresh interpretation of the classic drama, Hamlet plays at Georgia Shakespeare at Oglethorpe University’s Conant Performing Arts Center through October 27, 2013. For tickets and more information, please visit our Now Onstage listing or the theater’s website. The show’s runtime is a little over two and a half hours with an intermission.
– Kenny Norton