PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource
PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource
PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource
PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource

Take Wing and Soar Productions' High-Spirited Hamlet Hot

Elizabeth BachnerElizabeth Bachner   April 21, 2007  
0   1   0   0   0
Take Wing and Soar Productions' High-Spirited Hamlet
  • Hamlet
  • by William Shakespeare
  • Workshop Theater
  • April 13 - April 29, 2007
Acting 4
Costumes 2
Sets 2
Overall 4
There’s always the danger that a bare-bones, low-budget production will make a great tragedy seem smaller, less frightening and less terrible. From the first moments of the opening act of Take Wing and Soar Productions’ Off-Off Broadway staging of Hamlet at the Workshop Theatre, it’s clear that director Elizabeth Swain has used the sparse setting to create a sense of urgent intimacy. While this is a classic Hamlet, with no great innovations or bells and whistles, it brings a rare freshness and immediacy to the story.  Take Wing and Soar Productions was established in 2001 to offer classical actors of color the opportunity to take on the meatiest Shakespeare roles, and this Hamlet has a nearly uniformly strong cast. Timothy Stickney as Hamlet gives the Prince a crumbling, dark sobriety, and Mary Hodges manages the difficult balancing act of portraying an Ophelia who is sweetly innocent and genuine without being vapid. The supporting cast is the production’s real strength.  David Heron captures the tragedy of Laertes’ transformation from a sweet boy to a broken man gutted by grief, and Bryan Webster gives a charismatic standout performance as Horatio.  Michael Leonard James lends levity as a hilarious Osric and First Player, and Obie winner Arthur French woos the audience as a quiveringly senile Polonius.  All have some form of classical training and know how to bring the language to life—it’s one of those too-rare productions where the audience can truly hear, enjoy and understand Shakespeare’s words.  One of my fellow audience members, who confessed before the show that she’d bought her ticket because Hamlet was played by “R.J. on One Life to Live, and he’s a fine-looking man,” left the theater excited. She said, “I forgot it was Shakespeareit was like a good movie!” Take Wing and Soar Productions opens up Shakespeare not only for trained actors of color, but for aspiring actors and audience members of all kinds who respond to the diversity onstage. The casting diversity strengthens rather than dilutes the classical focus, and the audience can feel this cast’s love of the language.

There are a few flat notes in the production. At moments it lacks the sexual menace and depth of the strongest classical interpretations, and the darkness of the family romance is often downplayed or overlooked to the show’s detriment. There are also a few typical Off-Off-Broadway glitches like lighting oddities and broken air-conditioning, but the cast maintains energy, commitment and focus throughout, even at moments when the best productions of Hamlet tend to go stale. This production straddles the fine line between profundity and entertainment, managing to provide the audience with both. There’s a true sense of sweet sadness at Polonius’ death, and the suffering it brings to his shell-shocked children, a real grief; but the bloodbath at the end of the play, so often lugubrious rather than moving, has a delicious schadenfreude. It’s almost, but not quite, over-the-top. Dark tragedy, but a fun ride.

There are a few flat notes in the production. At moments it lacks the sexual menace and depth of the strongest classical interpretations, and the darkness of the family romance is often downplayed or overlooked to the show’s detriment. There are also a few typical Off-Off-Broadway glitches like lighting oddities and broken air-conditioning, but the cast maintains energy, commitment and focus throughout, even at moments when the best productions of Hamlet tend to go stale. This production straddles the fine line between profundity and entertainment, managing to provide the audience with both. There’s a true sense of sweet sadness at Polonius’ death, and the suffering it brings to his shell-shocked children, a real grief; but the bloodbath at the end of the play, so often lugubrious rather than moving, has a delicious schadenfreude. It’s almost, but not quite, over-the-top. Dark tragedy, but a fun ride.

Reviews on this site are subject to this required disclosure.

 

Use Power Search to search the works

Log in or Register

Register
Forgot username  Forgot password
Get the Shakespeare Pro app