Four of us went to see Hamlet at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company last Thursday. Wow!
My third Hamlet (I think) – and by far the most accessible, best done and most powerful. I really got it this time! Cincy Shakes is my favorite theater in town, and I’m a subscriber. Always interesting perspectives, staging, costumes.
The costumes are from the Downton Abbey era – perfect and easy, showing us who is who without being cumbersome. Outstanding were Brent Vimtrup as Hamlet (an Academy Award performance), Bruce Cromer as Hamlet’s uncle and king and stepfather, Claudius, and Darnell Pierre Benjamin as Hamlet’s best friend, Horatio.
This was the first time I really saw Hamlet as conflicted, as unsure about whether his father had really been murdered, as totally furious with his mother. And I understood why he was driving Ophelia away – to protect her from all the various machinations. (Though, of course, as with many stories – I would have rewritten that part, and had her be helping Hamlet understand the currents, both of this world and of the supernatural, swirling around him. As Horatio attempted to do.)
His behavior became human and understandable with Brent – who was giddy sometimes, genuinely crazed at others, clever – as with the players attempting ‘to catch the conscience of the king’, and the new message for the king of England. The death scene was much more understandable as well – without quite so many bodies as I’ve seen before, and with less shouting. Claudius’ cowardice in not knocking the chalice out of Gertrude’s hands, the cabal / plot behind the poisoned sword tip.
Horatio’s grief was a moment of beauty. Claudius’ acting – greed for his wife, kingly or craven behavior moment to moment – was incredible. Always thinking he was a step ahead, when he was really a step behind.
If you missed it, you missed one of the best shows this season anywhere in the region.