October 10, 2012

in Plays

Play (1603)
by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre of London

Paramount Main Stage
Boston, MA

October 9 – 21, 2012

Directed by Dominic Dromgoole and Bill Buckhurst

Set and Costume Designer: Jonathan Fensom, Original Score: Laura Forrest-Hay, Composer/Arranger: Bill Barclay, Lighting Designer: Paul Russell, Choreographer: Sian Williams, Fight Director: Kevin McCurdy

With Michael Benz (Hamlet), Peter Bray (Rosencrantz/Marcellus/Prince Fortinbras/Osric), Miranda Foster (Gertrude/Second Player/Player Queen/Second Gravedigger),Tom Lawrence (Horatio/Reynaldo/Captain), Carlyss Peer (Ophelia/Voltemand), Matthew Romain (Laertes/Bernardo/Guildenstern/Lucianus), Chrostopher Saul (Polonius/Francisco/Player/First Gravedigger/Priest), Dickon Tyrrell (Claudius/Ghost/First Player/Player King)


A thoughtful, but lively and spirited, framing of the tragic tale, artfully trimmed and rendered.

Hamlet (Michael Benz), Prince of Denmark, gets a message from his ghostly father that all is not well at home: having been done in by his brother, Claudius (Dickon Tyrrell), who has proceeded to marry his widow, Gertrude (Miranda Foster), he asks Hamlet for justice. Seeking it, Hamlet engages a theatrical troupe to deliver the message, which sets a lot of dramatic balls rolling. By the end, justice gets furthered and lives – many of them – get shortened.

Dominic Dromgoole, the artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre of London, has created an artfully trimmed version of Hamlet which, in this robust and entertaining staging, comes across indistinguishably from the full-length play, but, because of its abridgements, is not overly long or taxing. It is also, besides its internal heaviness, a tremendously enjoyable production because of the lively context it is given.

Music by the troupe opens and ends the play and shows up at various stages during it. It is wonderfully executed and serves to remind the audience that, despite its severe depictions, this is, after all, just a play. The Globe Theatre troupe – usually resident at the authentically reproduced architectural version of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London – has worked hard to recreate a sense of what an entire production in that era would have been like. And, with this musically enlivening embrace, they have given a great sense of the entertaining frame in which these sometimes dire dramas were performed.

The performance is exceedingly good throughout.

Michael Benz (Hamlet) and Miranda Foster (Gertrude)

Michael Benz (Hamlet) and Miranda Foster (Gertrude)
Photo: Fiona Moorehead
Courtesy of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre of London
and ArtsEmerson

Michael Benz, who plays Hamlet, is relatively young and gives an authentic sense to the role. His articulation of the part and its miscellaneous soliloquies is clear and understandable.

I found, as in all well done Shakespeare, that the language felt lucid and expressive rather than wordy and burdensome. In such performances, the meanings of Shakespeare’s constructions rise effortlessly out of the fertile ground from which they come rather needing to be extracted painfully.

Benz’s way of breaking the lines in the To be or not to be soliloquy was a bit unusual, but not at all unfounded. It was an interesting departure from the standard mode and made one’s ears perk up a bit. I guess that is one way to get the audience to listen to something they have no doubt heard many times.

All the other actors besides Benz took on multiple roles and did exceedingly well.

In addition to the wonderful acting in the main play, the acting by the players in the play within the play was hilarious, done in a fabulously entertaining and rhythmic stop-action style. With the rest of the music and dance, it contributed beautifully to a most successful attempt to convey the entertainment embrace within which, during Shakespeare’s day, these tragic dramas were presented.

This is another great score for ArtsEmerson, which, in its third year, continues a successful mission to bring interestingly innovative theater to Boston from far and wide.

– BADMan

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