To see, or not to see? In this case, there is no question! With its inaugural production, Player King Productions brings to the stage William Shakespeare”™s Hamlet. If you fancy yourself a fan of iambic pentameter, and are open to a bit of an artistic, modernized spin on the Elizabethan era, then find your way to Belle Varado Studios/Stage 22 in Echo Park.
Review by Tracy Lynn Schafer
This is Shakespeare”™s classic tale of the Prince of Denmark; murder, madness, truth, revenge. Hamlet (Samuel Dahl) is deep in the throes of depression and mourning when he learns that the sudden death of his father, and his mother”™s quick re-marriage to her brother in-law, Hamlet”™s uncle, may be more sinister than he realized. After a rather shocking, postmortem visit from his dearly departed dad, Hamlet discovers the disturbing incestuous truth. Dead set on bringing truth to life, Hamlet sets sail for revenge. Allowing nothing to get in his way, Hamlet”™s madness leaves a disastrous wake. Such is the voyage of Shakespeare”™s drama.
Player King Productions”™ choice to modernize this production of Hamlet is a gutsy move, especially as this is the Company”™s flagship performance. My belief about Shakespeare is – if it ain”™t broke”¦ Yet, the modernization worked. The stage is open, theatre in the round style, drawing the audience into the performance. By breaking down the invisible wall that usually exists, the audience not only views the spectacle taking place before and around them, but is invited to participate as the drama unfolds. The use of color – a simple palette of black, white and red – threw in an element that seemed to propel even more emotion from the stage. Beautiful. Dramatic. Intoxicating. I was left a bit of an emotional wreck by the final scene, simply stunned that three hours had passed in what seemed to be a blink of the eye.
This ensemble made Shakespeare look good. Performing in Hamlet requires a certain set of skills not every actor possesses. Samuel Dahl truly goes through a metamorphosis with the lead role of Hamlet. While at first I was a little concerned that Dahl may not be right for the noble yet mad Prince of Denmark, within fifteen minutes my mind was changed and his performance continued to grip me tighter and tighter. By the end I had actually sort of fallen in love with him; in a sad, hopeless, unrequited sort of way. Angela Nicholas plays Gertrude stunningly. She carried herself on stage so beautifully and her performance was both powerful and heartbreaking. Matt Freitas played the role of Horatio, performing Shakespeare with such grace and eloquence, it was as if there was nothing foreign in the language. The comedic pairing ofÂ Rosencrantz (Joe Massingill) and Guildenstern (Curtis Rainsberry) was quite the success. The expert timing and delivery from both actors kept the audience in stitches and brought lightness to a rather heavy production.
Shakespeare”™s most famous play was the obvious choice for Player King Production Group”™s flagship production. Hamlet is the most daunting, the most exciting and most famous piece of English literature. To produce this play successfully, it takes a group of artists who are willing to dedicate themselves fully to the project and nothing less, and we have assembled that group. Our goal is to make Hamlet new again for the audience. We achieve this goal by being true to the text of the play, and not necessarily the tradition of it, thus allowing people to experience Hamlet, as they never have before. The first, and most important, step in this process is taking Hamlet out of a conventional theater where the audience and the actors are separated. Removing this barrier allows the audience to exist within the heart of the play. We surround them with action and bear them responsible for every ounce of injustice that is to take place in Elsinore Castle. Whether they are a high school student seeing their first production of Hamlet or a weathered Shakespearean scholar, they will be held in suspense wondering what is to happen next.
Currently playing at Belle Varado Studios/Stage 22, Hamlet closes on Monday, May 9th, 2011.
Belle Varado Studios/Stage 22
2107 Bellevue Avenue
Los Angeles, Ca. 90026
Runs until, Monday, May 9th, 2011
Sunday and Mondays, 7:30pm
Approximately 180 minutes, with one 10-minute intermission
Purchase tickets here
or call (310) 909-8629
About the company:
The Player King Production Group is dedicated to bringing the “play” back to the theatre. At one time in all of our lives we took part in “theatre.” As children we all pretended to be someone or something extraordinary, we told and acted out stories created entirely from our free imaginations. It has been said “We don”™t stop playing because we grow older, we grow older because we stop playing.” We aim to remind people of the days of play, when we let ourselves be guided by pure imagination and nothing else. We are committed to bringing the life back to theatre, and the theatre back to life.