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Folger Theatre Hamlet

By • May 5th, 2010 • Category: Reviews
Hamlet
Folger Theatre
Folger Elizabethan Theatre, Washington DC
Through June 6
2:45 with one intermission
$30-$60
Reviewed April 28, 2010

Hamlet rules at the Folger.

If ever a time has come to enjoy the most popular of classic play of William Shakespeare it is now at the Folger. I have seen many of the plays of Shakespeare. I have been lucky enough to have performed in many. But I must say none of the classics were quite prolific in understanding than is this Hamlet is.

One of the problems with performances of Shakespeare today is the inability of the audience to catch on to the language. Most of us take quite awhile to understand the flow of the iambic pentameter and then, just as we are starting to enjoy the music of the language, the show is half to almost over. Also, we find ourselves trying to play catch-up to what was foreign to our ears in the earlier scenes. This being said (or written), there’s always been an answer to this conundrum. The answer is Joseph Haj, the Producing Artistic Director of Playmakers Repertory Company who was named last year by American Theatre magazine as one of 25 theatre artists who will significantly impact the field in the next quarter century. He has placed the setting so as to be more familiar to the viewing audiences. A few Shakespearean purists may scoff at the idea, but this concept allows us to follow the characters with a sense of ease. Mr. Haj’s casting, for the most part, was brilliant. His choice for Hamlet was also a brilliant choice as Graham Michael Hamilton, in this title role. Playing this role is a wonderful challenge for any actor, but Hamilton’s superb talent and Joseph’s Haj’s direction combine to make Hamlet a man we all can relate to.

Graham Michael Hamilton’s demeanor, his confidence of the vocal and physical attributes and his wonderful delivery of the emotional nuances of Shakespeare’s words are what truly make this play so good. Having performed in many plays on this very stage, I truly am awed by his talent. What a pleasure to share in Hamlet’s journey. You will too.

Not to diminish are David Whalen’s Claudius, who gave a performance so real and in tune with the avarice and greed we see in all too many throughout history as well as the present. Also giving a heart touching performance is Deborah Hazlett as Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother. Her realization of the truth about her brother-in-law’s avariciousness and subsequent death is very moving. Stephen Patrick Martin playing Polonius/Gravedigger gives a marvelous performance. Stephen’s attention to each moment’s objective is spot on.

A special bravo to bringing Tony Award winning Jack Herrick of The Red Clay Ramblers for composing original music for Hamlet and actually performing it live at each performance. A few words about the set; Wow and WOW! James Kronzer’s set is so cool! Multiple levels and entrances and angles were breathtaking. You won’t believe his use of color. Well done! Added to Mr. Kronzer’s set is Justin Townsend’s lighting design. Hand in glove were the two of you.

Casey Dena Kaleba directed the fights for this production with a realistic flare with some hauntingly scary moments.

The rest of the cast are very strong indeed. Often playing multiple roles with such distinction, you will never be confused. Todd Scofield, Ghost/Player King/Gravedigger played each role with such diversity of character and demeanor you will automatically accept each character with ease, but most importantly, with understanding. Following are Justin Adams as Laertes, Lea Coco playing Horatio, Dan Crane playing Guildenstern/Bernardo/Fortinbras, Billy Finn as Rosencrantz/Marcellus, Michael Glenn as Francisco/Voltemand/Prologue, Jonathan Lee Taylor playing Osric/Player and Lindsey Wochley as the lovely Ophelia.

If you love Shakespeare or if you always wanted to understand Shakespeare better, then this is the show to see. This production is one of a kind and one which I will always hold as one of my all time favorites. Definitely a must see! No really, go and see this play. I mean it. This play runs about 2.5 hours but will feel like an hour.

Photo Gallery

Hamlet (Graham Michael Hamilton) debates killing Claudius (David Whalen) while he prays. Lindsay Wochley as a mad Ophelia and Justin Adams as her brother, Laertes.
Hamlet (Graham Michael Hamilton) debates killing Claudius (David Whalen) while he prays.
Lindsay Wochley as a mad Ophelia and Justin Adams as her brother, Laertes.
Graham Michael Hamilton as Hamlet Laertes (Justin Adams) and Hamlet (Graham Michael Hamilton) in an ill-fated duel in the final scene of Hamlet.
Graham Michael Hamilton as Hamlet
Laertes (Justin Adams) and Hamlet (Graham Michael Hamilton) in an ill-fated duel in the final scene of Hamlet.

Photos by Carol Pratt for the Folger Theatre.

Disclaimer: Folger Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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has been involved in theatre for over 40 years in the local Washington DC Metro area as well as NYC and London England. Mark has performed at the Dramatist Guild Theatre on Broadway, at The Dorothy Strelsin Theatre Off-Broadway. His credits include work in many local theatres as well: The Folger Theatre Group, Arena Stage, New Playwrights Theatre, 7th Street Players, The Keegan Theatre, The American Century Theatre, The Journeyman Theatre, ASTA Theatre, The Hayloft Dinner Theatre (Associate Producer), The Lazy Susan Theatre, Discovery Channels, "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" (Frankenstein) with Donald Sutherland. London, England credits include work at: The Duke of York Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre, The Questors Theatre, The British Embassy Players. Mark is a graduate of The Drama Studio, London, England. Mark is also a narrator of audio books for Gildan Audio: “True North”, by Bill George; “Never Give Up”, by Tedy Bruschi and “Five Minds for the Future”, by Howard Gardner among them. Mark currently teaches Advanced Acting at The Little Theatre of Alexandria and still performs locally in many theatres.

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