Though a fan of Shakespeare, I have never read “Hamlet” or seen it performed. I tend to gravitate toward the comedies, rather than the tragedies.
I was pleasantly surprised and became completely invested in the story upon watching The Acting Company’s production of the play when they stopped at the Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts, as a part of the Artist and Lectures Series.
In my opinion, the best scene of the show was the confrontation between Ophelia and Hamlet, when she attempted to prove Hamlet’s love for her to her father and the king. This is the scene which incidentally begins with the famous line, “To be, or not to be? That is the question.”
The intensity of the scene varied drastically. Hamlet’s behavior alternated sharply from passion and lust to pure aggression and insanity. The physical choices of the directors and actors were quite awesome and had me holding my breath and sitting at the edge of the seat throughout the scene.
Overall, the direction the show took was more humorous and light than I had expected; typically the story of Hamlet is rather dark and tragic. This decision, made by the director, Ian Belknap, was very solid and was, at least personally, well-received. The additional comic relief was almost necessary, as the points of tension would have otherwise been almost unbearable.
However, the final scene, involving the death of almost every character, seemed anticlimactic in this performance. I would have liked to see a greater buildup of conflict and the abandonment of all comedic elements in the show before the armed confrontation. This would generally invoke a greater reaction from the audience and a more impactful finale.
I would have also made the performance of Hamlet’s inherent madness more evident from the beginning. In this particular production, it seemed as if Hamlet’s insanity was merely the result of his father’s death, rather than an actual part of his character.
The addition of this performance to the Artist and Lecture Series was immensely valuable and entertaining. I hope to see more like it in the future.