Sunday, March 30, 2014

Hamlet—Post 5 Theatre—NE Portland

“What a Piece of Work…”

This classic play by Shakespeare is directed by Paul Angelo and is playing at their space at 850 NE 81st Ave.  It runs through May 4th.  For more information, go to their site at

God, I do love black box theatre!  It strips away all the pageantry and ostentation of larger theatre productions and gets down to the nitty-gritty of what the story is about.  It brings one up close and personal to the action, and relies, almost solely, on the author’s words, the actor’s talents and the audience’s imagination to get across its point.  That is storytelling at its purest.

What we often have, especially on the big screen, is 3D or a lot of C/G effects.  Impressive to look at, perhaps, but beneath all those pixels was a story once…and real live actors…and the ability to use our imaginations to flesh out the plot, like in novels.  Black box theatre allows one to do just that.  When you have an actor just inches away from you sometimes, you feel like you are part of the action and, thereby, the play becomes an experience rather than just an uninvolved event.  This production has that in spades!

is, perhaps, the most produced of the Bard’s play.  All the greats have attempted it, including Olivier, Gielgud, Gibson, Branagh, Jacobi, Shell, Williamson, Kline, et. al.  But this version is down and dirty and concentrates mainly on family dynamics.  Prince Hamlet (Ty Boice) of Denmark’s father has died and his brother, Claudius (Jeff Gorman), has anxiously slipped into bed with his mother, Gertrude (Hadley Boyd) and married her, becoming King, of course.

Meanwhile Polonius (Tobias Andersen), father of Ophelia (Jessica Tidd) and Laertes (Jake Street), has thoughts of marrying off his daughter to Hamlet.  And they do seem chummy for awhile and all might have turned out well, except that his father’s ghost suddenly appears and reveals to Hamlet that he was untimely murdered by his brother.  This turns the tides for the Prince and he is now set on a plan of revenge.  Something is, indeed, “…rotten in the state of Denmark.”

His uncle, sensing that something is amiss with his step-son, sends for two of his former college pals, Rosencrantz (Ollie Bergh) and Guildenstern (Philip J. Berns), to find out the cause of his distress.  They conclude that he is mad and, indeed, he acts that way, but there is a method to it.  He is hell-bent on proving to himself that his uncle is the murderer and so, when a group of players arrives, he consorts with the leader of them (Keith T. Cable) to contrive an addition to the play that they are to perform for them, in which a scene will portray a thinly disguised depiction of the actual murder.
He confides to his best friend, Horatio (Cassandra Boice) that, if the King “…but flinch…” to that scene, then he will know for sure he has, indeed, committed such a crime.  Claudius reacts badly and Hamlet knows he has “captured the conscience of the King.”  It all goes downhill from there with more than a half dozen deaths racked up before it is over.  But I won’t reveal more of the plot, in case you are one of the few not familiar with the story.  Let’s just say that, when revenge is meted out, both the guilty and the innocent will be caught in its vortex.

This production is very well thought out by Angleo, it’s Director.  There is a touching, short video shown of the Prince’s early years with his father, which reinforces the formative years of childhood and how they might affect the adult.  He has also managed to pull out more humor from the story than usually portrayed, especially with R&G, the Gravediggers, and the Players presentation.  The fight at the climax is done simply but very well staged.  And he has propelled his actors on a stage, not much bigger that a person’s living room, to expound this very personal story.  My hat’s off to him!

Ty (the company’s Artistic Director), as Hamlet, has everything going for him.  He is young, lean and dynamic onstage.  You truly feel his sense of injustice, as well as the frustration, confusion and sense of inevitability as the story surges forward.  A masterful job!  Gorham is also good as a man ruled by passion for a woman but truly lost as he gleans his fate.  A complex person who may “love not wisely but too well.”  And Tobias, an icon of Portland theatre, is always a delight to watch.  I believe you can actually see him thinking onstage as he strides through his role.  He is certainly one of the best we have and may we appreciate him and his talent for many years to come!

Cassandra, in what is typically a male role, is perfectly believable as Hamlet’s chum.  Why not have a friendship between a man and woman?  It actually deepens the resolve between these two, as a  sensitivity is added to the mix and she plays it well.  Boyd, as his mother, and Tidd, as a potential mate, both come across as strong women, holding their own in a patriarchal society.  Both good choices for their roles.  And in smaller roles, Cable, in various guises stands out, and Berns, as both a Gravedigger and Guildenstern, is always memorable.  He commands the stage in his scenes.
I would recommend this play but, being a small theatre, it would be best to get your tickets soon.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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