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Review: 3rd Act's HAMLET is Wondrous Strange

3rd Act Theatre Company closes out Season 3: UNKNOWN with HAMLET

Review: 3rd Act's HAMLET is Wondrous Strange
photos by April Porterfield

3rd Act Theatre Company's Season 3 closer, Hamlet, runs now through May 28th at their indoor space in North Park Mall. Reimagined and adapted by Dakota Lee Bryant, this version of Hamlet is immersive and gender-bent. One of Shakespeare's most quoted plays, Hamlet is known for being complex and poetic, dark, and even sinister. Bryant directs this production and has amassed a cast of thirteen strong players to pull off this tale with heart and honesty.

Bryant has brought the stage out, creating a catwalk of sorts in the center, and allowing for the action to move out into the audience. The seats have been turned sideways, so everyone has a unique view. The actors also utilize the sides and back of the house, entering and exiting around the audience throughout the performance. This immersive quality adds to the immediacy and builds the tension as the story unfolds.

Young Hamlet returns home to find that her father, the king, has died. In his place and on his throne sits her uncle Claudius, married to her widow mother. Hamlet is outraged and determined to avenge her father. She's also haunted by ghosts of her past and sets out on a path where destruction is sure to follow.

Kathy Skaggs is our heroine Hamlet. Skaggs is full of fire and passion as Hamlet. She's a powerhouse on stage, commanding each scene and reciting the most complex of Shakespearean dialogue. She's smooth and cold, confident and alert. Skaggs softens at times, and her tender scenes are just as moving. Skaggs has palpable chemistry with Ophelia, and truly creates gorgeous moments with every cast member she shares the stage with. Nobody misses the traditional male casting, and Bryant could not have found a better Hamlet, male or female.

Jacey Nichole is haunting as Ophelia. She reflects Hamlet's past in her own eyes, and the love and heartbreak that passes between them has the audience swooning. Nichole creates an especially powerful character when tragedy strikes and Ophelia loses more than one person can take.

Rachel Morgan is Ophelia's mother Polonius. Polonius is another character who is traditionally male, yet the story is made all the better by gender-swapping the role. Morgan is sympathetic and earnest, and turns the plot on its head when truths and weapons fly.

Denise Hughes is a standout as Hamlet's mother Gertrude. She's worried for her daughter and left with little choice in life, as women often were, and are even still. Hughes is powerful in her emotional expression and brings tears to the eyes of anyone watching. Taylor Reich is equally strong as Gertrude's new husband and newly appointed King Claudius. Reich is a true villain, and his hatred of Hamlet is matched by hers for him.

Kaelin Presley McGowan brings vitriol and grief to the role of Laertes. Laertes is out for blood, Hamlet's specifically. And he doesn't care who he has to take down to get it. Laertes is a true victim of his circumstances, and McGowan creates a relatable character. Sure, you hate him, but you don't blame him. McGowan is strapping and tough, ready to go against Hamlet and avenge his family, just as Hamlet seeks to avenge hers. Skaggs and McGowan spar verbally and physically, and when they do, the world turns upside down.

The supporting cast is dynamite, and there's really no weak link in this well-rehearsed machine. The opening night performance is reviewed, and opening nights never go perfectly. Except maybe this one. Hamlet's band of friends and co-conspirators is made of Reed Bentley as Horatio, Ford Filson as Bernardo, and Thor Bautz as Marcellus. They're loyal to Hamlet and complete the set of classic Shakespearean characters. Bentley also serves as Fight Captain alongside Kris Kuss as Fight Choreographer for the beautifully choreographed fight scenes.

The Players in the court of King Claudius serve as a reflection for Hamlet to express some of her anger. The Players bring a bit of levity and humor to the otherwise tragic tale, and they do so with style and sparkle. Maurice Quintel Simmons is Player #1, Maddie Wall is Player #2, and Filson serves as Player #3. Bautz is Player #4. They all have moments of hilarity and bring some irreverence to the play.

The dynamic duo of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern complete the cast. Kate Adams is bold as Rosencrantz, while Tasneem Al-Michael is subservient as Guildenstern. These two are fun characters who are both self-serving and ambiguous.

The production team pulls out all the stops to make this production a memorable one. Bryant and Stage Manager Michelle Hall run a smooth show that has few hiccups, and it's Shakespeare at that. Set design by Don Taylor is unique and inviting, and lighting design by Amandanell Bold is romantic and vibrant. Likewise are Bold's costumes, bringing a mix of genres, time periods, colors, and themes, the costumes coordinate with each player perfectly. Everything, simply everything, about this production is breathtaking and beautiful. Bryant is growing beautifully as a director and technician, and this is his best work yet.

Hamlet is wondrous, strange, immersive and inviting, and it's not to be missed. This theatre company is making great works of theatre art, and they're a force to be reckoned with. Like the ghost of Hamlet's father says in Act I, you must see it, and SWEAR!

HAMLET runs until May 28th, 2022 at 3rd Act Theatre Company. 3A is located inside The Shoppes at North Park Mall, across the hall from Hacienda Tacos. Tickets are available at 3rdacttheatreco.com.


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