Review of Hamlet by College of Marin

In Uncategorized on March 16, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Once again Jim Dunn takes up the gauntlet of directing the greatest of the Bard’s plays. In doing so, he has re-established a high water mark.

Not lacking in innovative ideas that exploit the unique opportunities and challenges that Hamlet provides Dunn nonetheless remains focused on conveying the story with clarity. What better way to introduce new audiences to the melancholy Dane, and to engage those of us who are not newcomers, than by making it all so understandable, and human? Complicit in his achievement, I should add quickly, is his Hamlet, David Abrams.

This is not to say that the play has been stripped of its complexity or enigma. At the core of Hamlet is a central question: is the boy nuts? To answer the question directly is to wreck the play. Dunn and Abrams may have a point of view, but they keep it well obscured. Hamlet has moments of trenchant clearheadedness and others of unbridled rage. Whether the former are informing the latter, or the latter, the former, that is the question.

This Hamlet is short on pomp, and Abrams’s speeches similarly are presented without the sense of portentousness that often accompanies them. “To be or not to be” may be the most important existential dilemma expressed in all of literature, but it is also a young man’s wrestling with his own fiber. In a recent interview, Abrams said “The challenge is not trying to please people, but trying to be my Hamlet.”. The result is a performance that feels human, rather than one in which we witness an actor tackling the greatest and most challenging role he is likely to confront. Still, his performance has no lack of amplitude.

The remainder of the cast includes several high points. David Kester is a dynamic Claudius. Charles Isen is wonderful as Hamlet’s father and player king. Ian Swift is an excellent windbag of a Polonius, which is both very funny and also affecting. Ariel Harrison’s Ophelia starts off mildly, in her major scene with Hamlet she comes across mightily as she sings and shreds her hair enroute to her downward spiral.  Spencer Acton is an excellent Laertes, showing a range of emotions.
Seating is onstage in the main theater so get to the show early.  Upon entering the theater, one is confronted by Ronald Krempetz’s dark and foreboding set. The set serves as both the exterior and interior of Elsanor.

Patricia Polen designed costumes of great and thoughtful subtlety, unconstrained by period but exactingly reflective of the text. Deneb Irvin lit the show very effectively.
Any production of Hamlet carries with it the burden of Hamlets past. This one felt at once fresh and yet faithful.


What: Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Who: College of Marin Drama Department

Where: College of Marin’s Main Theater

When: March 4, 5, 6, 12,13,19,20 at 7:30 p.m.

Matinees on March 13, 14, 20, and 21 at 1:30 p.m.

TICKETS: Order online; by telephone; at the door.

COST:  $10-$15

Phone Information: 415 485 9555


Rating: Four stars out of five


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