photo: Patrick Walsh
Click here for more information on this production that runs through January 28th.
"...Full of nuanced, intricate and rich characters and a plot that turns on a dime with an explosive finale, (Hamlet) doesn't really require any fancy production elements or updated settings in order to make Shakespeare's stellar dialogue and stunning language shine. Southwest Shakespeare Company's production has a talented cast led by William Wilson, who is exceptional as Hamlet, but there are a few small shortcomings in the production concept. Director David Barker has abridged the play to an energetic and fairly fast-paced running time of two hours...Prince Hamlet's father the King is dead. When a ghostly image that resembles the King informs Hamlet that he was murdered by his brother Claudius, who has married the King's widow Gertrude and inherited the throne, it sets in motion a chain of events with Hamlet seeking vengeance for his father's murder. The part of Hamlet is a wide ranging role with rich introspective dialogue as well as a physical transformation of sorts...William Wilson navigates his way through Shakespeare's witty wordplay as he delivers some of the most famous lines in the theatre with a stunning ease, a natural command of the language, and a firm control of this multidimensional man, achieving a stunning portrayal of this beloved character....Melody Knudson makes a radiant Ophelia...As Gertrude and Claudius, Amie Bjorklund and Keath David Hall are, respectively, poignant and deeply calculating, while Andy Cahoon as Laertes, Ophelia's brother, registers a wide range of appropriate emotions. Cahoon and Wilson also negotiate a highly realistic swordfight that is well staged by director Barker and fight captain Cisco Saavedra. Clay Sanderson plays several very different parts with ease, especially a deeply moving portrayal of the ghost of Hamlet's father....The combination of Tiana Torrilhon's simple, bleak and dark yet highly effective set design and the exquisite, shadow-drenched lighting by Daniel Davisson works quite well to bring a timelessness to the piece. However, Barker's decision to include a rope motif throughout is less effective. ...This works well to show the ghost of Hamlet's father being held back, as if he's desperately trying against unseen forces to come from the beyond to inform Hamlet. However, in other instances, it mostly gets in the way of and occasionally distracts from the beauty of Shakespeare's prose...With a play as perfect as Hamlet you don't need uneven and unnecessary motifs and out of place comic bits—you can let the piece stand perfectly on its own. Even with these few out of place directorial decisions, with William Wilson's rich and affecting portrayal and a game cast who throw themselves into their roles, Southwest Shakespeare Company's Hamlet is a rewarding production of Shakespeare's epic tragedy. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)
"...Director David Barker’s muscular, trimmed-down production is bursting with ambitious ideas that live up to his promise that “this is not your grandmother’s Hamlet,”...Unfortunately, the resulting performance is the most muddled, confusing interpretation of Shakespeare I’ve ever endured.... scenic designer Tiana Torrilhon has festooned the simple set with hanging ropes and booms, as if the action is taking place backstage. And costume designer Maci Cae Hosler extends the rope motif... It’s an intriguing conceit that implies much metaphorical import, but its meaning is less than clear. Worse, the costumes end up looking like a middle-school craft project gone awry....Barker’s cuts go even further, losing some of Shakespeare's best rhetorical flourishes....William Wilson, plays (Hamlet) for laughs throughout the show, sometimes at inopportune moments.... Wilson has a confident, charismatic stage presence, but he tries to do way too much here. ...it’s never clear whether the choices you see are those of the actor or the director. ...there just doesn’t seem to be an overall interpretation here. There is spark and imagination in individual scenes, but no guiding light to make them all fit together. " - Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)
"Unique and imaginative in interpretation, scope and design, David Barker's HAMLET transports Shakespeare's tragedy to an Elsinore that is fertile grounds for madness, revenge, and calamity.
...The riggings (part of an extended "ropes" metaphor that Barker uses to powerful effect and is incorporated into Maci Cae Hosler's costumes) that overhang the stage suggest a ship of state that will soon lose its moorings. Daniel Davisson's mood lighting adds to the atmospherics that forewarn of a sea of troubles. It is William Wilson's electrifying portrayal of the aggrieved prince...that ultimately gives depth and weight and nuance to Southwest Shakespeare Company's current production of HAMLET. ...there's delicate Ophelia, played with sweet vulnerability by Melody Knudson. ...Knudson is mesmerizing as she chants and pirouettes her way to suicide. The play has its richest moments when Wilson's Hamlet interacts with his perceived antagonists...Wilson shows his range and agility in delivering a uniquely nuanced interpretation of his character ~ whether feigning madness, strutting Chaplinesque and mugging for the crowd, lamenting, calculating, or defiant....
Director Barker...deliver(s) a more compact and accessible presentation of the classic. He has exercised remarkable creativity, discretion and liberty in employing anachronisms and adding humor to selected scenes ~ to wit, the grave digger (Clay Sanderson) singing Get Happy as he prepares for Ophelia's burial. Finally, his choreographic sensibility and theatricality is brilliantly on display with artistic segues and parallel reenactments downstage of remembrances cited by center stage characters. " - Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)