The Woodward Shakespeare Festival struggles with its outdoor production of the classic “Hamlet.” I can’t recommend it.
Director Broderic Beard, stretched thin by also playing the title role, is not able to articulate a cohesive vision of the show nor plumb much of its emotional depths. With a small cast (just 12 players with no doubling of roles), Beard scales down the production, which works fine in some ways and fails in others. (Instead of a Player Queen, Gertrude herself is asked to recite her own incriminating dialogue in the play-within-the-play scene, which sabotages the moment.)
“Hamlet” is nearly always trimmed for performance, of course, and I do like some of Beard’s compressions and innovations, from inserting wordless scenes (between Hamlet and Ophelia at one point), and having Horatio possessed by the ghost of Hamlet’s father. But other moments are head-scratching, particularly in the depiction of Polonius’ death, which turns Hamlet’s homicide from an act of raging impulse to something that feels much more cold-blooded. (And, for me, at least, totally changes the play.)
The high acting point comes from Casey Ballard as Laertes, who seems to truly connect with the text and bring the focus and energy the role needs. Dylan Hardcastle shows promise as Horatio. And Russell Noland succeeds with a nice portrayal of the Player King.
Greg Taber offers an energetic Polonius, but the role is often too fussy and overplayed. Lisa Taber struggles to give Gertrude either an icy reserve or inner emotional turmoil. Victoria Lichti’s Ophelia needs depth. Thomas Nance’s Claudius, given to awkward pauses that sap an audience’s confidence in the actor’s command of the text, does not feel authoritative.
Beard invests a lot in his Hamlet, but the interpretation feels flat in a sagging production.
- Through July 16
- Woodward Shakespeare Festival Stage, Woodward Park
- www.woodwardshakespeare.org, 559-927-3485.
- General admission is free; $10 reserved tickets in the first two rows are available online. $5 per car park entry fee applies.