Things are reverential in the state of Denmark. Clocking it at nearly three-and-a-half hours, equipped with a set that looks like the Medieval Times in Schaumburg and boasting period costumes that would not look out of place in a Masterpiece Theatre broadcast, Signal Ensemble Theatre’s revival of the Bard’s most well-known play is definitely your father’s “Hamlet.” An intentional choice, Ronan Marra, Signal Artistic Director and the man at the helm here, has described his “Hamlet” as “classical.” And how. The acting choices are conservative. The direction is uncluttered. The actors are comfortable with the verse and conscious of most of the imagery. But comfortable isn’t compelling, and that is the quality that I missed most from this “straightforward” revival of the play. Shakespeare’s language will never sound natural to our modern ears and I wish actors would stop trying to make it sound unnecessarily elevated and grand. An example of this is the adoption of a peculiar and erratic accent, like Madonna’s faux British one. Or sometimes Shakespeare’s spectacular imagery unconsciously forces the actor into producing his sound from mainly the head cavity, emphasizing tenor tones and making the reading sound affected and histrionic. To varying degrees, both of these problems afflict the company here with actors Christopher Prentice, in the title role, and Joseph Stearns as the loyal Horatio, the most notable exceptions. Delivering performances that are vocally dynamic, consistent with an American argot and un-self-consciously restrained, they seem to be the actors whose vocal work speaks best for Marra’s original vision. But at more than three hours long, everyone should hit the Bard’s language out of the ballpark in order to prevent this Dane from being remembered solely for his dullness. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
This production is now closed.