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Bob Goepfert Reviews "Hamlet" At Capital Rep

There is much to like and even admire in the Capital Repertory Theatre production of “Hamlet,” which continues through May 10.

First of all, it is well acted and features a terrific performance by David Kenner, playing the title role.   Too, it is a visually stunningly production that tells the story with clarity.

Considering the complications within the story, that alone is a feat. The work, which is considered by many to be Shakespeare’s best play, starts with a young man being told by the ghost of his father that he was murdered.  The ghost then demands his son (Hamlet) seek vengeance on his murderer.   

Complicating the situation is that the murdered man was the King of Demark.   The murderer is the king’s brother, who two months after the crime married the king’s widow (Hamlet’s mother) and is now the reigning king.   

It’s enough to drive a young man mad, and as Hamlet goes about his task of vengeance he causes a lot of collateral damage that suggests he is might indeed be crazed as his emotional highs are edgy and his lows are disturbingly maudlin. 

The mood swings of Hamlet are demanding and scene by scene Kenner makes the most of every moment.   He gives a performance that lets you into the state of mind of the man at almost every moment of the play. 

It is an impressive individual performance.  However, though we understand Hamlet’s mood in all scenes, his relationships with others are less clearly defined.    It is difficult to think he has any feelings for Ophelia, Laertes, Horatio, Rosencranz or Guildenstern.  

After killing Polonius in error he is unfeeling as he disregards the man’s body for the rest of the scene and makes a comical exit line seem as insensitive as it is funny.  

It is hard to blame Kenner for the lack of connections in the production as there isn’t any satisfying interaction taking place between the other characters.    It seems a director’s choice to show the characters live in a cold, isolated world.   If this is the case, the set design of Roman Tatarowicz, Ryan’ O’Gara’s lighting and David Zyla’s costumes – all of which update the time to early 20th century – supports that vision.

One of the few actors to establish any sense of a relationship with others is Christopher McCann as the ill-fated Polonius who shows himself a caring father to Ophelia and Laertes.   Deanne Lorette as Gertrude is wonderful with her son Hamlet, but her relationship with her new husband Claudius (played in an awkwardly formal manner by Jeff Williams) is a cipher.  

One of the rare moments where characters connect is the graveyard scene where a gravedigger (wonderfully played by Terry Rabine) has a comical interlude with Hamlet.   It is one of the few times characters listen to each other rather than speak at each other.  A connection is made between both the actors and the audience.  It reminds you what has been absent up to this point in the play.

Because much of the show is so good there is the hope that once the performers settle into their roles the presentation will become effortless, more comfortable and richer.  We can only hope.

As it exists now the play, under Kevin McGuire’s focused but narrow direction, is presented with few subtleties or complications.   Though it moves briskly it still takes almost three hours to complete.  

The result is a story that is often exciting and is always beautiful to watch.  However, for those who demand more from a production than that which is on the printed page - this not the “Hamlet” for you.

“Hamlet” at Capital Repertory Theatre,  111 N. Pearl Street, Albany.   Through May 10.  Performances 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays.  518-445-7469, capitalrep.org 

Bob Goepfert is the arts editor for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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