BWW Review: HAMLET at Irish Classical Theatre

BWW Review: HAMLET at Irish Classical TheatreThe most famous of all Danish princes is making a welcome return to the Buffalo stage in Irish Classical Theatre's riveting production of William Shakespeare's HAMLET. Programming the Bard's works doesn't usually fall into many theatrical seasons, but ICTC has taken a risk that is paying off. In addition, it is the ICTC directorial debut of it's next Artistic Director Kate LoConti Alcocoer. Happily the planets all seem to be in alignment.

HAMLET tells the story of a young Prince Hamlet who returns home from school upon the death of his father, King Hamlet. What he finds is that his mother Queen Gertrude has just married her dead husband's brother, Claudius. The Prince is beyond distraught and through a series of ghostly appearances by his dead father, he vows to avenge his father's death (which was at the hand of Claudius himself).

Ms. LoConti has gathered a cast of 10 and put her own imaginative stamp on this modern dress production. By abandoning the trappings often associated with Shakespeare, the play takes on an eerily contemporary theme, while still employing the requisite amount of pageantry and drama that the work demands. She does a fine job of choreographing the scenes in such a way to have each character weave on and off the stage, rearranging furniture and setting props with swift intent. A simple set by Jessica Wegrzyn uses basic suggestions of walls, random chairs and gauzy curtains to set the multiple scenes. Brian Cavanagh has done great work as lighting designer, keenly focusing the action when needed, but opening up the vast playing area for the night time scenes.

Anthony Alcocer is Hamlet- full of angst and rage. His razor focused portrayal is that of a man who's filial obligation and love for his father drives him at all times. From the outset, Alcocer's intensity is palpable, his darting eyes full of dramatic intention. He places his own stamp on the young prince, clad in black, sometimes exposing a fully tattooed arm, and expertly skillful with a sword. His famous "To be, or not to be" soliloquy felt fresh and lacking of pomposity.

Matt Witten is wickedly evil as Claudius, impatient with Hamlet's mourning. His control over his new wife Gertrude and ultimately Hamlet's fate made him the perfect villain. Kristen Tripp Kelley's portrayal of Gertrude was regal but a bit too cool and in control. Her soft voiced and nuanced performance begged for more emotion when confronting her son in her chamber, being fearful of her own life.

Anna Krempholtz was the lovely Ophelia, the object of Hamlet's affection, but forbidden to love him by her father Polonius ( played by Chris Kelly). Krempholtz employed a self assurance that was dashed at every step, leading to her fascinating emotional breakdown. Patrick Cameron is Laertes, Ophelia's brother. Upon witnessing his sister's insanity and ultimate death, he challenges Hamlet to a duel with a poisoned sword tip. Mr. Cameron brings a youthful and energetic air to the role.

Adam Yellen is brilliant as Horatio, Hamlet's dear friend. Yellen's simple dress and glasses make him everyone's "best buddy," and he brings a humanity to a part that is endearing and heart felt. Roland Martin Gomez plays many roles, but as the Ghost of Hamlet he is mesmerizing. With an echoing voice and paucity of movement, his every action was chilling. Peter S. Raimondo and Jake Hayes are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, respectively. These two friend's of Hamlet are beckoned by Claudius and the duo played well off each other.

Jessica Wegrzyn has designed costumes with a modern edgy look for the younger men, and tasteful suits for the elders. Gertrude is perfectly regal in an emerald green form fitting gown and later a couture white dress. Sound designer Tom Makar has chosen evocative underscoring for many of the scenes, adding to the darkness of the drama.

The overall production was seamless, and despite a three hour and 10 minute running time, it is evident that LoConti Alcocer has devised a staging that doesn't force a false concept on the piece. The undertows of insanity that plague Hamlet and Ophelia play out with a truthfulness that could border on melodrama, but happily do not. The modern dress, while not gimicky, is a mode in which to help present day audiences witness the story with fresh eyes, shedding what could play out as an old and stale library piece. The dramatic finale still packs a punch and proves the brilliance of Shakespeare's writing.

HAMLET plays at Buffalo's Irish Classical Theatre through May 19, 2019. Contact for more information.

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From This Author Michael Rabice

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