By: Tatum Hunter ~Staff Writer~
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s (CSC) latest production of “Hamlet” did an excellent job bringing life and humanity to some of theater’s most notorious characters. Director Brian Isaac Phillips, along with Lighting and Set Designer Andrew Hungerford, Sound Designer Doug J. Borntrager and Costume Designer Heidi Jo Schiemer, presented the plight of the Prince of Denmark in a way that made the story relatable and accessible, even for audience members who may not be familiar with the play.
The design and acting were infused with the elegance expected of such a classic and beloved work, while incorporating many fresh ideas. The production was set in the early 1900s, with Claudius in coattails and Gertrude in ornate dresses. Palace guards toted guns instead of swords, and Horatio used a flashlight to illuminate the figure of the Hamlet’s father. The set had many possible places for characters to enter and exit the stage, a feature that lent itself to surprises including the ing one setting from another.
The cast was perfectly suited to a play that requires such thoughtful performances and compelling character choices. Notable performances included Sara Clark as Ophelia, Bruce Cromer as Claudius, Sherman Fracher as Gertrude and Travis McElroy as Laertes. The most impressive performance by far was Brent Vimtrup’s Hamlet. Vimtrup’s portrayal of Hamlet seemed very honest in that it highlighted the character’s flaws without being overtaken by them.
Vimtrup made Hamlet’s transformation from a son sick with grief to a conspirator bent on revenge very believable. His performance succeeded in showing what motivated Hamlet to behave as he did while still leaving enough ambiguity to keep the audience engaged.
All of the actors did a wonderful job finding the humor in the text of the play and communicating that onstage. Both line delivery and staging created moments in which the audience could laugh at the absurdity of situations that may have otherwise seemed purely grave.
Though this was not the best or most compelling show CSC has done this season, the Company certainly did justice to such a tricky and timeless show.