|Hamlet (Michael Braugher) and Horatio (Daniel Petzold)|
(photo by Dan Norman)
Joseph Haj directs this familiar piece with clarity, urgency, and great emotion, moving the story along with momentum that never drags despite the 2.5+ hour runtime. Guthrie newcomer Michael Braugher is an excellent Hamlet. He's so natural, present, and believable in all of Hamlet's many moods. You won't catch him "Acting," he just is this tortured young man. (BTW Michael is the son of actor Andre Braugher of Brooklyn 99, Men of a Certain Age, et al, but is a true talent in his own right, having recently made his Broadway debut in To Kill a Mockingbird.)
|the new king rocking a suit with a turtleneck (John Catron)|
with the ever stylish queen (Regina Marie Williams)
(photo by Dan Norman)
|photo by Dan Norman|
The play within the play is heard but not seen; we hear the voices of the King and Queen play out the very similar story, the cast looking out into the audience as if watching a stage, while silhouettes of crowns and poison ear drops are displayed on the back wall of the stage. It's an effective and dramatic choice that keeps the focus on the characters as they watch the players. Another great choice is having musician and composer Jack Herrick provide a live soundscape on multiple stringed and percussive instruments, which is always better than a recorded track because he can respond to the pace of the action, and is part of it at times.
Hamlet is a classic play that's done over and over, because its story of family drama and revenge still resonates with us. This 5th production in the Guthrie's 60-year history is a faithful one, but with modern flair. You can see it now through May 21 on the Wurtele Thrust Stage, a replica of the original theater built in 1963 with 1100 seats and not a bad one among them. You can also help the Guthrie celebrate at the 60th Anniversary Gala on May 11, featuring a concert by the last Hamlet, Santino Fontana, Guthrie/U of M graduate who's since gone on to Broadway, TV, and film. Ticket prices range from $100 to $2500 for this fundraiser event. If it's anything like their 50th Anniversary Gala, it's going to be a memorable night. See you there!
*Plot summary borrowed from my reviews of previous productions.