The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
Writing for Us

A CurtainUp New Jersey Review

When sorrows come, they come not single spies, But in battalions — Claudius
Gareth Sax as Hamlet
Gareth Saxe as Hamlet
(Photo: Gerry Goodstein )
While Hamletomanes eagerly await the arrival on Broadway of Hamlet from London starring Jude Law, there is plenty to savor and consider in the markedly idiosyncratic performance of Gareth Saxe in the Shakespeare Theater production under the direction of Bonnie J. Monte. Saxe, who played Joey last season in the highly regarded Broadway revival of Harold Pinter's The Homecoming, is having an impressive season in New Jersey. In addition to portraying the conflicted Danish prince, he will be seen later in the season at the George Street Playhouse in A Moon to Dance By, a new play by Thom Thomas. Robert Cuccioli, who is appearing as Claudius in Hamlet, will also be in the Thomas play which had its premiere last season in Pittsburgh. About Saxe's Hamlet — a very fine and frenzied one he is, but it is fated that Cuccioli should rule the stage whenever he is given the opportunity.

For much of the play, however, Saxe invigorates Hamlet with a compulsive restlessness that suggests that the intellectually tormented prince may be as fortified by generous belts of Cherry Heering as he is by his equally dependable bouts with suspicion and revenge. That this provides an unexpected side to this young man who has remained one of dramatic literature's most enigmatic protagonists isn't such a bad thing. This Hamlet offers the famous "To be or not to be" soliloquy contemplatively sitting down, an interesting choice.

The other famous soliloquies, notably "Oh, that this too too solid flesh" and "Oh, what a rogue and peasant slave am I" are spoken with a restraint that suggests Hamlet's sly and willful disposition. Generally speaking, Saxe, under Monte's watchful eye, careens through his procrastinations dressed in black and without a trace of his presumed melancholia. There is instead an off kilter playfulness in his portrayal that understandably makes those around him oblivious to his plans.

However, the road to tragedy for Hamlet and those around him is not only paved with foreboding, but also with a few stumbling blocks. Hamlet's distrust of and disillusion with Ophelia (Lauren English), and his discovery of the intentions of Rosencrantz (Gene Gillette) and Guildenstern (Michael Stewart Allen) seem genuinely influenced by his suspicions of deception.

The undercurrent of doom and gloom may still be perceived by those who choose to delve deeply into William Shakespeare's famed tragedy. Monte also gets credit for designing the simple but effective unit setting notable for a central parapet that is lifted and lowered by chains and a free standing arras. The Danish court assembles when summoned to remind us that the rottenness that pervades Denmark isn't confined to any century as long as there's a monarch around willing to act rotten.

To this end we have Cuccioli's charismatically sinister performance as King Claudius, a "king of shred and patches," whose virile countenance makes him the production's most formidable presence. It is easy to see how Queen Gertrude (Jacqueline Antaramian) has been seduced and duped by her brother-in-law. If Antaramian's contribution is oddly negligible, there is an even odder consideration given to Ms. English's extremely healthy looking Ophelia who is, nevertheless, obliged to go off her rocker wearing only a girdle and panties encircled with ridiculous dress hoops.

Not being confined to a particular century, costume designer Hugh Hanson has the men in tights, fur trimmed hats and coats and the two women in attractive 19th century gowns. Not something to overlook is that everyone speaks the blank verse and prose with skill and understanding.

John Hickok is fine enough even if doesn't quite mine all the wit and humor in Polonius's famed advice to his son and others as have others. Standouts playing multiple roles are Ames Adamson (as the Player King and gravedigger) and Jason Edward Bobb (as gravedigger, and Player Queen). The duel scene, with its gathered nobility, is realistic and quite thrilling helped by the fine work of fight director Rick Sordelet. Recorded voices of the Harmonium Choral Society lend some effective, eerily atmospheric background to the dark doings at Elsinore Castle.

The perennial wonder of Hamlet is that it gives the actor, as well as the director, choices. In a recent phone chat with director Monte she said, "I don't think Hamlet's dilemma is his inability to act. Rather he proceeds with reason, but in a situation so complicated that he is unsure how to act. He delays until he can come up with the right answer. " To be sure, Monte has guided this Hamlet toward an answer that, as expected, will likely beg another question.

Subscribe to our FREE email updates with a note from editor Elyse Sommer about additions to the website -- with main page hot links to the latest features posted at our numerous locations. To subscribe, E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message -- if you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
  By William Shakespeare
  Directed by Bonnie J. Monte
Cast (in order of appearance):
Francisco /Pressly Coker
Bernardo /Jason Edward Bobb
Marcellus /Jon Barker
Horatio /Greg Jackson
Ghost of Hamlet's Father /Robert Cuccioli
Claudius /Robert Cuccioli
Voltemand /Robert Grant
Laertes /Daniel Stewart
Polonius /JohnHickok
Hamlet /GarethSaxe
Gertrude /Jacqueline Antaramian
Ophelia /Lauren English
Reynaldo /Ames Adamson
Rosencrantz /Gene Gillette
Guildenstern /Michael Stewart Allen
Player One/King/ Ames Adamson
Player Two/Prologue /Jon Barker
Player Three/'Queen /Pressly Coker
Player Four/Lucianus /Jason Edward Bobb
Fortinbras /Robert Grant
Norwegian Captain /Jon Barker
Servant /Pressly Coker
Sailor/ Jason Edward Bobb
First Gravedigger /Ames Adamson
Second Gravedigger /Jason Edward Bobb
Priest /Gene Gillette
Osric /Michael Stewart Allen
Set Designer: Bonnie J. Monte
  Costume Designer: Hugh Hanson
  Lighting Designer: Steven Rosen
  Sound Designer: Karin Graybash
  Fight Director Rick Sordelet
  Running Time: 3 hours 10 minutes including intermission
  Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey, F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theater, On the campus of Drew University, 36 Madison Avenue at Lancaster Road in Madison, N.J.
  (973) 408 — 5600
  Tickets ($30 - $54)
  Performances: Tuesday, Wednesdays, Sundays at 7:30 PM; Thursday - Saturdays at 8 PM; Saturday and Sunday at 2 PM.
  Opened: 09/12/09
  Ends: 10/11/09
  Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 09/12/09

Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Hamlet at Shakespeare Theater of NJ
  • I disagree with the review of Hamlet at Shakespeare Theater of NJ
  • The review made me eager to see Hamletat Shakespeare Theater of NJ
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

>Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email and state if you'd like your comments published in our letters section. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

You can also contact us at Curtainup at Facebook or Curtainup at Twitter
South Pacific  Revival
South Pacific

In the Heights
In the Heights

Playbill 2007-08 Yearbook

Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2008 Movie Guide

The Broadway Theatre Archive>


©Copyright 2009, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from