Honest Pint Theatre Company will be performing an unusual version of Hamlet, William Shakespeare’s powerful play, at the Leggett Theater on William Peace University campus through July 31st. This is an extraordinary experience for several reasons. From the program, we get this caveat: “This Hamlet is a marriage of two traditions, hopefully, a black and tan mix of some of the spirit of Shakespeare’s performative and textual idiosyncrasies, but without attempting museum theatre.” In fact, the performance is the best live production of Hamlet that we have ever seen. And it seems to represent the Globe Theatre experience by including the audience through generous use of asides, asides aimed not at the back wall, but to the audience as individual members.
For all the length of the play in this version, it sweeps through the hall like a tornado, swirling, threatening, titillating our funny-bone at the most unlikely times, exploding in temperament and insanity, heightening nuances of meaning with an eyebrow here, a bow there, some out-of-kilter gesture that adds twist to a remark. Between acts — there are two intermissions — the cast serenades the audience with modern music that reflects the angst of the plot.
David Henderson lends a maturity to the Danish Prince, and displays acting skills that are breathtaking. Some of his monologues are so fresh that it is like hearing them for the first time, most notably, “Oh, what a piece of work is man” and “Oh, what a rogue and peasant slave,” pieces that we somehow all know and yet now came with meaning, and especially “To be or not to be,” started in such a quiet voice that we were pulled into every word — every word spoken crisply and fully understood by both him and us. Henderson also manages to deal with both aspects of Hamlet’s insanity, the melancholia that underlies his thinking and the deliberate feigning of “madness” which covers his scheming.
Polonius, the wretched “tedious old fool,” father of Ophelia and Laertes, is created with much fluttering, hemming, and hawing by Mark Phialis, dithering and wringing hands, being officious, and ultimately bringing on his own death. Fine work.
Simon Kaplan gives us a Claudius of great dignity and power; the facial changes in the middle of the “little play,” when he recognizes the story, and the display of horror when Gertrude drinks from the poison cup that he has prepared for his stepson are perfectly delivered.
Hamlet’s love Ophelia is played by Vera Varlamov; and in this version she has become pregnant, which is appropriate, and allows for several puns that are often skipped over. Varlamov plays her madness beautifully, and we feel her losses.
Tamara Farias portrays Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother and wife of the murdered king, who recently ammried her husbands murderer, her former brother-in-law, Claudius. Farias gives no clue as to whether she was complicit with Claudius or not. Her reporting to Laertes, of his sister Ophelia’s death, is sincere and heartfelt.
The Gravediggers, two clowns who lighten up with much needed comic relief, are performed by Aaron Alderman and Chris Milner, who delight us with their puns and bawdy banter. This is also a good time to mention that the Shakespearean admonition to “fit the action to the word” is magnificently honored by all members of this cast.
Director Jeremy Fiebig has imbued this cast and this production with a thoroughly Shakespearean aura. The set and costumes, designed by Shannon Clark, the lighting by Jack Lewis, and the discipline and skill of the cast make this an outstanding piece of theater. Everyone who loves the Bard will also love this production.
SECOND OPINION: July 21st Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article90798612.html; July 20th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Brian Howe: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/hamlet/Event?oid=5048324; and July 14th Chapel Hill, NC WUNC/91.5 interview with director Jeremy Fiebig and actors David Henderson, Tamara Farias, and Simon Kaplan, conducted by Frank Stasio for “The State of Things”: http://wunc.org/post/many-interpretations-hamlet#stream/0. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the July 21st Triangle Review review by Dustin K. Britt and the July 21st review by Pamela Vesper and Kurt Benrud, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/07/honest-pints-uncut-version-of-hamlet-is-engaging-surprising-and-funny/ and http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/07/an-honest-pint-of-hamlet-at-william-peace-universitys-leggett-theater/, respectively.)
Honest Pint Theatre Company presents HAMLET (uncut) at 7 p.m. July 22 and 23, 1 p.m. July 24, 7 p.m. July 29 and 30, and 1 p.m. July 31 in the Leggett Theater on the second floor of Main Building at William Peace University, 15 E. Peace St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27604.
TICKETS: $22 ($13.60 students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel).
BOX OFFICE: https://honest-pint-theatre-company.ticketleap.com/hamlet/.
SHOW: http://www.honestpinttheatre.org/#!hamlet-ensemble/lgdpy and https://www.facebook.com/events/485683504961176/.
PRESENTER: http://www.honestpinttheatre.org/, https://www.facebook.com/honestpinttheatrecompany, and https://twitter.com/honestpintthe8r.
VENUE/DIRECTIONS: http://www.peace.edu/files/shared/peace_virtual_tour/main.htm and http://www.visitraleigh.com/listings/Leggett-Theatre-at-William-Peace-University/59630/?maxshow=10.
The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (c. 1599-1602 play): https://www.britannica.com/topic/Hamlet-by-Shakespeare (Encyclopædia Britannica) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamlet (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://shakespeare.mit.edu/hamlet/full.html (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and http://web.archive.org/web/20081013145206/http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/ShaHamF.html (First Folio version, courtesy University of Virginia).
Study Guide: http://www.bard.org/study-guides/hamlet-study-guide (Utah Shakespeare Festival).
William Shakespeare (English playwright and poet, 1564-1616): https://www.britannica.com/biography/William-Shakespeare (Encyclopædia Britannica) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare (Wikipedia).
Jeremy Fiebig (director and Assistant Professor of Theatre at Fayetteville State University): http://www.uncfsu.edu/arts/faculty-and-staff/jeremy-fiebig (FSU bio).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.