Marin Shakespeare’s Hamlet: The Sweet Prince’s Passion and Despair

Despite decades of casual study of the Shakespeare canon, I must confess that I never quite “got” Hamlet, never understood the depths of this play the way others seem to have.  Until now.

That has a lot to do with the way Nate Currier plumbs the depths of the sweet prince’s passion and despair, the way he personifies the occluded madness that is both feigned and uncontrollably real.  While other productions of the play make the character’s indecision a focal point, Currier’s Hamlet is swept by harrowing tides of unreason that will admit of no solution, but only deepening despair exquisitely revealed in this stunning new production at Marin Shakespeare.

A despair driven by the betrayal of his birthright by his own mother’s complicity in the murder of his father—her own husband—and marriage to Claudius the murderer himself.

Madness abounds.  The most poignant is that of Talia Friedenberg’s Ophelia, once Hamlet’s own betrothed, then so abused by him and she’s driven mad herself by the death of her father at his hands.  She sings, she weeps, she strews flowers on those she loves and then in the stream in which she—accidentally or not—drowns.

But there is more.  Rod Gnapp gives Claudius a convincing depth depth of his own, evolving from a shallow usurper announcing his accession at a press conference, through callow manipulator of his own friends and family, into a guilt-ridden penitent at confession, who then concocts a final murderous scheme in which he cajoles another (Hunter Scott McNair’s Laertes) to murder his own nephew Hamlet.

The spare, skeletal set and contemporary costuming allow all this consuming passion to speak for itself.

There is a bit of comic relief by Barry Kraft as a gravedigger for Ophelia’s burial—but only a bit, before, in true Shakespearean form, the play careens to finale with the stage littered with corpses.  But it is not the stage, or the play, but the actors’ depth of expression, brought about by the skillful direction of Robert S. Currier.

If you, like this reviewer, never quite “got” Hamlet before, go see this production.  You won’t regret it.

 

Through:  August 8, 2018, Thursdays and Weekends

At:  Marin Shakespeare, Forest Meadows Amphitheater, 890 Belle Ave. San Rafael CA 94909

Telephone:  415-499-4488

Box Office:  https://www.marinshakespeare.org/tickets/

Review by:  David Hirzel