Peggy Sue Dunigan

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

By - Jan 9th, 2007 02:52 pm
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The simple staging Nevermore Theatre adheres to works perfectly for William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark that opened the weekend of January 5. The audience focuses on the play, the verse and prose, where multiple lines of the most quoted and remembered words in the English language are given context. Recognized as perhaps the greatest tragedy written by Shakespeare, the production rivets eyes and ears even at a running time of three hours, which Nevermore supposedly reduced by a third.

Not presented on a Milwaukee professional stage since 1959, this performance is a prerequisite for theater lovers. Believed to have been written somewhere around 1600, Hamlet represents the mid-point in Shakespeare’s career, casting variety to his verse, pauses becoming part of the rhythm to his prose and increased strength in his richness of imagery, irony, and intricate plots where war, love, revenge, murder and madness rival each other.

Prince Hamlet is resentful that his Uncle Claudius, the King of Denmark, has married his mother, Gertrude, after the death of his father. He suspects his father was murdered, suggested by an apparition appearing to him, and vows to seek the truth, along with the appropriate revenge.

To discover if these suspicions are truth, Hamlet stages a play: “The play’s the thing where I’ll catch the conscience of the King.” When performed before the court with lines showcasing murderous actions similar to his own father’s death, Claudius and Gertrude become visibly shaken. Hamlet, tormented by grief and the uncertainty of delivering thisnow known rightful revenge, descends into his own madness, rejects the love of Ophelia and ultimately induces a course of actions and reactions that spiral into more madness and death, sealing his own destiny but restoring righteousness to the crown of Denmark.

One of Shakespeare’s most intelligently written characters, Hamlet is a choice performance for Joe Foust who gives the Prince a dry wit and youthful exuberance, not overly undone by his madness. Angela Iannone as Gertrude retains a powerful presence on stage, although a limited role, while Kelley Ristow depicts Ophelia as tender as the flowers she holds after her father’s funeral.

Spending three hours with Shakespeare through the eyes of Hamlet sends a message that classical theatre is indeed timeless. The questions Hamlet asks of himself are again asked to the audience with renewed insight and reflection. The complications created by the course of individual human nature are often unpredictable. To accept circumstances as they are, the remnants of grief and suffering, or the reasoning behind chosen reactions to those circumstances that may lead to complex and unforeseen consequences spiraling into unfortunate destruction, remain relevant. And as such, Nevermore Theatre’s production of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, almost fifty years overdue, reminds us that Shakespeare’s words and plays are indeed the most important thing. VS

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark runs at the Off-Broadway Theatre through January 21. Ticketsare $20.00, with reduced rates for students. Call 414.278.0765 for information.

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