When Honest Pint Theatre Co. announced its production of a complete “Hamlet,” two questions came to mind. Could a company known for small-cast, contemporary plays handle a classic with two-dozen characters and daunting language challenges? And would an uncut, four-hour “Hamlet” enhance understanding of Shakespeare’s themes and insights?
At Saturday’s performance, Honest Pint proved it could supply much of the necessary requirements, despite some flaws often found in Shakespeare productions.
Hamlet is a complicated role no actor can fully conquer. David Henderson impresses with his confident delivery and understanding of Hamlet’s motivations, and he’s particularly adept at the humor in Hamlet’s feigned madness. But much of his delivery is unrelentingly rapid and intense, causing odd breaks in the lines for breaths. He also regularly emphasizes words for variety but not always for clarity. Nevertheless, this is a worthy effort that holds the stage and keeps the audience intrigued.
Simon Kaplan as Claudius and Tamara Farias as Gertrude enunciate clearly and offer knowing insights into their characters’ vulnerabilities. Vera Varlamov’s Ophelia is unusually forthright, her madness frighteningly portrayed. Mark Phialas’ snippy Polonius and Mike Raab’s meek Horatio get laughs, although their projection is not always strong. Jim O’Brien’s formidable ghost of Hamlet’s father and Aaron Alderman’s willowy Osric stand out among the other talented performers.
Director Jeremy Fiebig keeps the pacing tight and the characterizations intriguing. He creates some clever staging, such as having the audience watch from Polonius’ perspective, spying with him on Hamlet and his mother through a translucent curtain. Fiebig also seats some audience members on either side of the stage where they are engaged directly by actors delivering soliloquies and asides.
Shannon Clark’s setting of archways, windows, grillwork and a balcony allows an easy flow of the action, and his costume designs, modern with historical touches, give appropriate class and character. Jack Lewis’ atmospheric lighting is especially effective in the scenes with the ghost and in the sudden washes of red at each character’s death.
The company deserves credit for offering a complete “Hamlet,” although it tests the actors’ ability to sustain interest, especially through the third act. Having them sing and play music before each act also further extends the lengthy evening.
Still, the production should appeal to Shakespeare enthusiasts and Honest Pint fans.
What: “Hamlet,” presented by Honest Pint Theatre Co.
Where: Leggett Theatre, William Peace University, 15 E. Peace St., Raleigh
When: 7 p.m. July 22-23, 29-30; 1 p.m. July 24, 31
Tickets: $20 (seniors, military and under 25, $12)
Info: 919-783-0025 or honestpinttheatre.org