It's no wonder William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” is so famous and beloved. “Hamlet” provides all the ingredients of a thrilling plot, while offering some of literature’s most breathtaking poetry and philosophical reflection. In Shakespeare’s paranoid Denmark, young love is throttled by fear, and friends are driven to become enemies, while a melancholic prince rages against a scheming uncle who married his mother.
With excellent directing and a well-edited script that remains true to Shakespeare while keeping the action flowing briskly, Kate LoConti Alcocer offers an outstanding “Hamlet.” Alcocer takes full advantage of Irish Classical’s theater-in-the-round format, keeping the audience gripped to the tragedy unfolding on the stage. Alcocer makes deft use of subtly eerie music, an eclectic array of variously modern costumes, and a simple but remarkably versatile set of props.
A great strength of this production is the depth and talent of its cast. Chris Kelly is consistently engaging as the smarmy and insufferable Polonius, while Adam Yellen provides both balance and humor as Hamlet’s levelheaded university friend, Horatio.
This “Hamlet” is enriched by actors who, in playing multiple roles, give the production the spirit of Renaissance theater. Peter Raimondo and Jake Hayes are not only superb as the comically inept spies Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: Hayes also excels as the nervous sentry Marcellus, while Raimondo is hilarious as the Player Queen. Rolando Martin Gomez is compelling, both as the sublimely sorrowful ghost of Hamlet’s father, and as the bright-eyed traveling actor who charms Hamlet. Patrick Cameron, who is excellent as Laertes, offers an especially rewarding turn as the theatrical poisoner, Lucianus.
Exuding both intense emotions and biting wit, Anthony Alcocer delivers a riveting performance as Hamlet. Whereas some performers portray Hamlet as cerebral and graceful, Alcocer offers an edgy Hamlet, who is more emo hipster than reclusive intellectual. When not brooding over his twisted family or the brutishness of reality, Alcocer’s Hamlet electrifies us with his intense interactions with friends and foes alike, his snotty wisecracks, and his profound meditations. This touchy-feely Hamlet works well: prone to giving hearty man-hugs to his friends, and to disturbing us by striking himself, Alcocer presents an anxious Hamlet whose poorly directed energy fills the stage with productive tension.
Another standout performer is Anna Krempholtz as Ophelia. Initially appearing as an easygoing young woman whose flowery dress matches her zest for life, Krempholtz conveys Ophelia’s tragic descent as her family poisons her budding amorous relationship with Hamlet, and then cruelly deploys her in plots against the prince. Krempholtz powerfully communicates disappointment and terror when Hamlet first turns on her, and later gives a breathtaking performance as her plaintive songs, wild words and frantic gestures channel the heartbreaking depths of despair.
One especially successful aspect of director Alcocer’s “Hamlet” is its depiction of toxic masculinity. In playing his Hamlet as a twitchy, angry young man who moves quickly from telling a joke to raging about vengeance, Anthony Alcocer helps us make sense of the play’s dark core. In a deeply unsettling scene, he violently manhandles Ophelia while lashing out at her – and this makes Ophelia’s terror seem an entirely reasonable response to Shakespeare’s often nasty Hamlet.
Cameron’s Laertes also exhibits such venomous masculine rage. Not only does Cameron’s Laertes share with Hamlet a tendency to shout, but he also acts upon disappointments by turning to competitiveness and violence. Laertes’ contribution to the play’s blood-soaked ending stands as a testament to the shortsighted destructiveness of such virulent masculinity.
3 ½ stars (out of 4)
Through May 19 at the Irish Classical Theatre Company (625 Main St.). Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $20-$45 (box office, irishclassical.com).