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BWW Review: HAMLET at Southwest Shakespeare Company


The tragedy of Hamlet for younger audiences

BWW Review: HAMLET at Southwest Shakespeare Company

BWW Review: Hamlet

Hamlet is one of Shakespeare's most famous and oft quoted tragedies. This production has been adapted and abridged in preparation to tour schools in Arizona to introduce classical theater to students. The production runs 90 minutes and packs the important dramatic elements into a consumable experience for younger audiences. I believe the reason Shakespeare remains relevant is the opportunity to adapt the writing to fit any time period or style. This production is set in the present time, but the words, themes, and messages remain pertinent and can teach valuable lessons. I also appreciate the work the Southwest Shakespeare Company is doing to promote theater to the youths of Arizona. The Arts are important in the development of successful students and I know the children will enjoy this production.

I have always been impressed with the talent I see on the stage at Southwest Shakespeare. This production is no exception. In a brilliant casting decision, Bonnie Beus Romney, plays Hamlet. Romney is superb. Hamlet is grieving, angry, distrustful, and unhinged. Romney handles the material with expert dexterity. It is clear what Hamlet is feeling at every moment. I hope the students appreciate how good she is in this role and what an opportunity they have to see the role played by a true and talented actor.

The supporting cast is fantastic. I feel that some important roles were diminished by the shortening of the play, but I understand the need to keep it short to keep the children engaged. Bethany Baca plays Guildenstern to Nick Devor's Rosencrantz. I enjoyed seeing both of them on stage, but with the shortened format, it felt that the roles were relegated to a bit part.

As Horatio, Spencer Beckwith, also does not get a lot of stage time, but he plays his part with dedication. Jim Coates plays Polonius and delivers the famous line, "to thine own self be true". Coates is no stranger to the stage and he clearly feels at home in this role. As his daughter, Ophelia, Bronwyn Elizabeth Doebbeling creates a sympathetic and tragic presence. I wish I had seen more of Ophelia, but Doebbeling did what she could with the time she had. Laertes is played by Benjamin Harris. Harris certainly has a commanding presence on stage and he handles the physical requirements of the role well.

As the king, Beau Heckman is wonderful. It is no secret how much I enjoy Heckman, but he commands the stage as a king should. As his queen, Racquel Mckenzie, is regal and conflicted. The king is more dastardly than the queen, but both play an important role in the tragedy of Hamlet.

The rest of the ensemble cast is fantastic. Even though Hamlet is a tragedy, the ensemble provides the levity in an otherwise heavy show. A play cannot succeed without a strong ensemble and I am excited for the children of Arizona to see such a magnificent ensemble.

Hamlet, directed by David Ira Goldstein, has already closed. The original production played at Taliesin West and this extended run was performed at the Sagebrush Theater in Scottsdale. The set is simple, but effective. The costumes by Emily Hasty straddle the line between contemporary and classical, and the whole cast looks great. The sound and lighting design are imperative to the ambience and Derek Stevenson and Stacey Walston did not fail in this effort. If you get the chance to see this production or know that your children have the opportunity, please do not miss it. This show is an excellent introduction to classical theater. You can find out more about the Southwest Shakespeare Company at their website and the amazing work they are doing in the community. I cannot say enough good things about this company and feel honored to participate in the work they produce.

PC: The Southwest Shakespeare Company

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From This Author Emily Noxon