Crystian Wiltshire, Jon Huffman, & Jessica Wortham in Hamlet. Photo by Hannah Wemitt.
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Matt Wallace
Review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2018 Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
Hamlet was going through a lot. His father dies, his mom marries his uncle and he’s not sure who to trust, all while forced to take a semester off from school. StageOne has partnered with Kentucky Shakespeare Festival for their annual winter production with Hamlet. A concise adaptation running just under 90 minutes, this production keeps the meat of the tragedy fully intact without watering down the substance for StageOne’s family-friendly audience.
In this adaptation, Hamlet, played by Crystian Wiltshire, is a moody young adult isolated by grief and motivated into action with severe swings of emotion. Wiltshire stays constant within Hamlet’s depression as shown in his “To be or not to be” speech, and high bits of anxiety within his “what a piece of work is a man” scene. With all the highs and lows, Wiltshire balances Hamlet’s soliloquies of mortality and grief with humor wordplay and sarcasm as he interacts with Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, Polonius, and others. Wilshire’s Hamlet is a boy-turned-man who comes of age as he digs deep into the root of his father’s mysterious death.
Modernized yet classic in its conception, this production cuts right to the action in Denmark. Amidst the debris and rubble in the broken down palace, a royal family of power and wealth attempts to carry on. Jon Huffman reprises his dual roles as King Claudius and the Ghost from KSF’s 2015 Hamlet in Central Park. Dressed in army fatigues and mysterious presence, Huffman brings out a metaphysical humanity to Hamlet’s dead father. As Claudius, Huffman is sly and cunning with a guilty secret which is vividly displayed in his prayer speech. As Hamlet’s mother Gertrude, Jessica Wortham is adorned with jewels, the finest clothes and highest of class yet remains silent as her new husband wreaks havoc throughout his new kingdom. Depending on how you look at it, a current first lady could come to mind when watching Wortham’s Gertrude as well.
Rounding out Hamlet’s world are the friends, schoolmates, and members of royalty who attempt to resolve his madness and ease his grief – to very little effect. J Barrett Cooper brings great character actor textures to Polonius, the gravedigger, and Osric. While Polonius is manipulative yet ignorant, the gravedigger is a gravelly-voiced delight as he throws bones around without a care. Alisha Espinosa brings out innocence in her performance that is quickly broken by Hamlet’s madness, which makes her Ophelia’s tragic end all the more haunting. As Laertes, Brandon Meeks is a great foil against Wiltshire’s Danish prince as he uses reserved logic to plan his revenge. Meeks also plays Rosencrantz and is paired with Jon O’Brien as Guildenstern. These two bring some light-hearted air into the production as Hamlet’s school friends turned Claudius’ hapless yes-men. Neill Robertson provides a well-rounded portrayal of Horatio as he observes Hamlet’s lunacy and attempts to save his life at the last minute.
StageOne traditionally caters to families and younger patrons, but do not think that this production has been diluted or weakened of its rich text and action. Young, hip and emotional, this Hamlet is perfect for a new generation.
January 26, 27, February 2,3, 2018
Stage One Family Theater
Kentucky Center for the Arts
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Kate Barry earned her Bachelors in English with a Theater minor from Bellarmine University in 2008. She has worked with many different companies around town including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions and you have probably purchased tickets from her at that little performing arts center on Main Street as well. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. Thanks for reading!