ACT adds its own touch to Shakespeare’s classic

Stepping into the Don Evans Black Box Theater for All College Theatre’s (ACT) production of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” was like actually stepping into Elsinore Castle.

The enormous, interconnected gray platforms of the set were flooded with green light and fog to become the eerie battlements of the castle where the ghost of the late king Hamlet was spied.

In a matter of moments, the creepy backdrop was transformed into King Claudius and Queen Gertrude’s bright throne room where the cast sported rich, classically Shakespearean costumes.

A strong characteristic of the play was fluidity, fluidity in the sense of dialogue and movement. Shakespearean English is difficult for modern English speakers to comprehend, let alone act out. On the whole, the cast of Hamlet had a commendable ability to convey Shakespeare’s language.

Along the same lines, the cast members expertly made use of their stage. The players were constantly moving, making no exchange of dialogue appear stagnant.

The play’s tragic climax was well staged, juxtaposing Queen Gertrude’s unknowing suicide by consumption of a poisoned drink with the well-choreographed swordfights that resulted in the deaths of Prince Hamlet, King Claudius and Laertes.

Powerful and passionate can only begin to describe junior computer science major Andrew Timmes’ turn as the play’s tortured title character.

In Act I, Scene V, Hamlet has arranged for theatre players to act out a scene from “The Murder of Gonzago,” a play which closely resembles the death of his own father. After adding in some of his own lines, Hamlet hopes the play will drive King Claudius to admit to murdering his brother, King Hamlet.

During this scene, Hamlet’s leg shakes with impatience and he doles out sidelong glances at his uncle. Timmes’ attention to detail is so inspired that as his Hamlet transforms from a tortured scholar to a vengeful shell of a man, the audience descends into madness with him.

Timmes’ range is apparent from his comical banter with Horatio, solidly played by sophomore English major Ray Fallon, to his intense, emotional rape of his former love Ophelia, played by sophomore English major Heather Duncan.

Duncan’s portrayal of Ophelia’s descent into madness is also noteworthy in that she mastered the disconcerting, far-off gaze and babbling nature of someone so affected.

The other stand-out performance of the show was senior finance major Evie Yawn’s performance as Polonia, Lady Chamberlain to King Claudius and mother of Laertes and Ophelia.

The casting choice was unusual because in Shakespeare’s play Polonia is a man – Polonius. However, the role was safe in Yawn’s deft hands, which brought the conniving character a sense of feminine meddlesomeness.

Audience member and sophomore history major Jerry Tower remarked on the scenes which placed Yawn opposite Timmes and their skills in reacting to each other.

“One of my favorite parts was Hamlet and Polonia’s comedic exchange in the beginning,” Tower said. “The jokes didn’t feel rehearsed and the lines flowed naturally.”

Yawn made Polonia’s notorious long-windedness apparent, but something was lost in the decision to cut Polonious’s famous speech in which he proclaims, “brevity is the soul of wit.”

Regardless of the engaging performances and a 10-minute intermission, it was impossible to not become a little restless during the show’s lengthy three-hour running time.

The play’s length and dialogue cuts aside, ACT’s production of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” was an overall success. There is no doubt that the preparation for the show was time-consuming, but the cast and crew’s dedication emanated from each change in lighting to every line of iambic pentameter which they delivered.