Review: St. Louis Shakespeare's HAMLET is a Well Acted Gem

Dustin Petrillo Gives a Magnificently Mad Performance as Hamlet

By: Apr. 14, 2024
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For four decades Donna Northcott has been making Shakespeare’s works accessible to students and local audiences as the Artistic Director of St. Louis Shakespeare. According to their website, Northcott and her theatre company have been professionally producing the works of Shakespeare and other dramatic classics since 1984. The first show of their 40th season is a sensational version of HAMLET directed by Patrick Siler

Siler has directed a stripped-down production of Hamlet on a near empty stage. He tells the Shakespearean tragedy by relying mostly on The Bard’s words and the exceptional performances of his talented troupe of actors. Siler, and his assistant director Nara, have ensured their cast was well rehearsed and fluent in their command of the Shakespearean dialogue. His blocking magnificently heightens the dramatic action.  

Playing Hamlet is a heavy lift. The actor who fills this role delivers almost 40% of the 30,000 words that are scripted in iambic pentameter, prose, and verse. Siler placed the play’s success squarely on the shoulders of actor Dustin Petrillo who delivered a tour de force performance. Petrillo convincingly portrayed the antihero’s anger, madness, and drive to avenge his father’s death. His soliloquies were introspective and reflective. Petrillo showed palpable grief during Ophelia’s burial scene expressing both his love for her and the awareness that he was complicit in her demise. His work and preparedness were only exceeded by his immense talent as a dramatic actor. 

The entire supporting cast, Creighton Markovich (Horatio), Bradley M. Dillon (Laertes), Hannah Duncan (Ophelia), Donna Parrone (Gertrude), Colin Nicols (Claudius), and Chuck Brinkley (Polonius) laid down marvelously believable performances. Their verbal and physical sparring created perceptible tension. Brinkley, Jordan Ray Duncan (Rosencrantz), and Austin Cochran (Guildenstern) skillfully delivered the scripted levity. Filling multiple roles with competent performances were Don McClendon, Jordan Ousley, Bryce A. Miller, Alexander Huber, Bryn Sentnor, and Jay Winkeler. Credit Siler’s strong direction for eliciting top-notch performances from every member of this wonderful cast.  

Complimenting Siler’s blocking was Erik Kuhn’s stage combat choreography. The physical representation of the altercations between Hamlet, Laertes, Gertrude, Polonius, and Claudius was well devised. The final confrontation was executed exceptionally. Sound Designer David A.N. Jackson used multiple percussion instruments to provide unique sound effects. His work was highly effective at adding mood to each scene.  

This well-directed and remarkably acted version of HAMLET illustrates how entertaining and engaging Shakespeare’s works can be. Siler and his cast created a production that would meet the highest standards of a finicky bardolator while entertaining a casual theater goer who may wonder if Shakespeare is right for them. 

The final performance of St. Louis Shakespeare’s production of HAMLET was on April 13th.   



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