- Terelle Jerricks
By John Farrell
If you’ve seen one Hamlet, don’t think you’ve seen them all.
The play, perhaps the greatest tragedy in English, is a complex story of oedipal guilt, revenge and murder, and it is, in what we know of it, more than 4 hours long, filled with complex characters and enough quotes to fill a book.
This current Long Beach Shakespeare version is moderately long and characters Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern or Ophelia, Hamlet’s lover, who are usually just mentioned actually get some face time. But the play centers around Hamlet himself. Every actor wants a shot at the part. And for many, roles such as this represent one of the big moments of their career.
This time around, Hamlet is played by Brandon Alexander Cutts, and he makes the most of his big moment. He isn’t a handsome, matinee idol, but he does look like what Hamlet actually is supposed to be: a student returned from life at a distant university and plunged into an intrigue that he cannot quite fathom.
His uncle has taken the kingship and married his mother after his father’s death. This is enough of a crisis for anyone. Then he meets the ghost of his late father (Mike Austin under a mountain of make-up) and he has to decide whether the phantom is telling the truth. King Claudius (Sean Scofield) tries to make Hamlet feel at home, but guilt weighs him down.
He never can quite bring himself to stand tall with his crown. His new wife, Queen Gertrude (Summer Blake) isn’t as lustful as the character should perhaps be, but that doesn’t mitigate Hamlet’s conflicted emotions. And his love, Ophelia (Rachel McVay), is as confused by Hamlet’s vacillations as any young lover would be. Polonius (Carl Wawrina) is suspicious of Hamlet, and pays the price. Only Horatio (Jacob Ochsner) is true to Hamlet in this intrigue, and he gets only to say goodbye after all the killing is over.
This Hamlet isn’t the best ever, but it is solid, and Helen Borgers, who directs, makes sure every line, from the brilliant soliloquys to the simplest greeting, is said with clarity. You’ll hear a lot more quotes than you remember.
Tickets are $20, $10 for students and seniors. Performances are Friday, Oct. 5 at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 6 at 8 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 7 at 2 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. through Nov. 4.
Details: (562) 997-1492, www.lbshakespeare.org
Venue: Richard Goad Theatre
Location: 4250 Atlantic Blvd., Long Beach