; Hamlet | a Curtainup Washington, DC Review
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There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. — Hamlet.
michael Urie
Michael Urie
Much has been written lately about actor Michael Urie, praising his comedic talent. Urie was a student of Michael Kahn's at Juilliard and now he and Kahn, the soon to retire Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre, have joined forces to bring to the stage an authentic yet totally new Hamlet.

Urie's Hamlet has many fine traits. He has seemingly endless energy. However, his non-stop movement particularly of his hands can be irritating. He is charming when he wants to be and a pain in the ass when not. His mother, Queen Gertrude, (Madeleine Potter) and her new husband, King Claudius (Alan Cox) are on the receiving end of most of his ire — for good reason. Their marriage after the death of the former King, Hamlet's father, was very hasty.

Even when Hamlet's moods swing from dark to very funny in a nano-second no meaning is lost. In fact, the text as delivered is totally comprehensible to a contemporary audience. Urie speech has a conversational rhythym and a millenial-like inflection. Modern touches are amusing — Ophelia(Oyin Oladejo) and Hamlet text one another and the King poses for a selfie with his entourage. They also speak to the fact that what Shakespeare is saying about relationships, demeanor and revenge in 1600 are as relevant today as they were then.

John Coyne set, made from metal girders with a bridge across the stage and staircases on both sides of the playing area, adds to the sense of timelessness and ubiquity. A blank slate that words can move across with ease. Yi Zhao's sometimes stark and sometimes eerie lighting, but always effective, adds to the mood.

Except for the actors in the play-within-the-play the cast is clothed (by Jess Goldstein) in the kind of garb that can be seen on any street today. Skinny jeans and scarves, lots of scarves.

Apart from Urie's performance which is dominant, two performances stand out. Robert Joy is a sweet, endearing Polonius even though you wish the old windbag would have, as Queen Gertrude curtly remarks, "more matter and less art." Keith Baxter's gravediggeris a cunning country rube whose timing on the part's word games is a pleasure. He also plays the Ghost and Player King.

From the opening scene in which Hamlet gives the soliloquy about the meaning of his life to the very end of the play, when the stage is littered with bodies and we are told that "the rest is silence," the Urie/Kahn production is innovative and exciting.

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Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Directed by Michael Kahn
Cast: Michael Urie (Hamlet); Alan Cox (Claudius); Madeleine Potter (Gertrude); Keith Baxter (Ghost of Hamlet's father, Player King, Gravedigger); Robert Joy (Polonius); Oyin Oladejo (Ophelia); Paul Cooper (Laertes); Federico Rodriguez (Horatio); Ryan Spahn (Rosencrantz); Kelsey Rainwater(Guildenstern); David Bryan Jackson (Voltemand, Priest); Lise Bruneau (Cornelia; Player Queen); Chris Genebach (Lucianus; Barnardo);Avery Glymph (Prologue, Fortinbras); Gregory Wooddell (Osric); Brendan McMahon (Reynaldo); Brayden Simpson (Francisco).
; Scenic Design: John Coyne
Costume Design: Jess Goldstein
Lighting Design: Yi Zhao
Sound and Original Music: Broken Chord
Projection/Video Design: Patrick W. Lord
Fight Choreographer: David Leong.
Running time: 3 hours including one 15-minute intermission.
Shakespeare Theatre, www.ShakespeareTheatre.org.
January 16 to March 4, 2018.
Reviewed by Susan Davidson at January 22 performance.

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