Nothing Rotten about Orlando Shakes' 'Hamlet'
"Do you hear, let them be well used; for they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the time..."-Prince Hamlet
And so Orlando Shakes' cast of Hamlet brilliantly fulfills the role of bringing to life the abstract and brief chronicles of the work that is considered one of Shakespeare's greatest plays. Orlando Shakes brought its Hamlet to life this past Friday on opening night, in a production fully worthy of the standing ovation it received.
Hamlet is a delicately balanced production that rests heavily on the back of the young and gifted Junior Nyong'o who serves as our conflicted prince. Prince Hamlet's slow consumption by the desire of his father's ghost (portrayed powerfully by Kenny Babel) to seek revenge for his murder, is separated only by a thin line from the sarcastic wit that Hamlet interlaces within his dialogue-and it's a line that Nyong'o gracefully plays upon with ease.
Nyong'o's performance in the marathon that is Hamlet is nothing short of energetic and forceful. He bounces quickly (quite literally) from soliloquy to accusation, from humor to a burning rage that shifts the feeling of the room almost immediately. His agility on stage is unrivaled, but the most intriguing part about our perturbed Prince is the method to his madness. He has the ability to pull everyone into his spiralling madness and conspiracies right along with him. Though he often speaks to himself on stage, Nyong'o doesn't appear to be alone. Instead, he interacts with the audience, making each individual seated before him a living element in his world of theories as he provides us with a glimpse into his fears and suspicions. He brings his paranoia to life around him and fully encompassing the audience in his world.
But Nyong'o isn't the only one on stage brimming with brilliance. Susan Maris, who portrays Ophelia (Hamlet's love interest), shines in her final moments on stage as she slips quickly into her own weary troubles. Her father Polonius (played by Dan Kremer), provides us with a much needed ere of comedy throughout the show with his amusing subtleties and exasperated efforts on behalf of his daughter and the King. And we can't leave out the climax of our show-the intense fight scene between Hamlet and Laertes (portrayed by Adam Reilly). Although a few missed hits and stalls in the fight did occur on their first go-around, the men (led by Fight Director Tony Simotes), manage to keep the house on the edge of their seats for a few rough minutes.
Aside from a few sound pops and hisses that plagued a few actors in the first act, the design of the production as a whole appeared nearly flawless. The scenic design by Jim Hunter complements the lighting by Bert Scott magnificently, with the lighting playing on the set pieces and intricate designs that line the stage in such harmony that it saves itself from being excessive and instead beautifully accentuates the elements around the room. The costume design by Jack Smith is nothing short of gorgeous as well-bringing to life the era one garment at a time.
Tackling the longest show in Shakespeare's collection is no easy feat, and due to the length of such a show and the exhausting pace at which it strives to maintain, it is true that something could very easily have been rotten in Denmark. And although you might think that a three-hour production could leave you asking yourself, "What did I just sign myself up for?", Orlando Shakes has proven once again that with the right team of actors, designers, and crew members on hand, that even the marathon that is Hamlet can leave you craving even more.