Seattle Children’s Theatre
January 25 – February 24, 2008
Possibly William Shakespeare’s most well known and most quoted play, Hamlet, finds its way into every canon of literature and theater. However, it is rarely produced with a minimal five actors and, what’s more, produced for children! Rita Giomi’s adaptation and direction of Hamlet is an incredibly skillful presentation of the versatility and universality of Shakespeare’s masterpiece.
Giomi’s adaptation cuts the play down to a fast-paced two hours, including intermission. Her work on the show points out the most important features of the play while keeping it entertaining for all ages. The language is kept true to the script, but the cuts slim down how much interpretation is needed and makes it very accessible to children while keeping it deep for the older audiences. Her direction, similarly, showcases the skill of the five actors playing the entire cast of Hamlet as well as spotlighting the most important details. The use of rapid changes and a phenomenally useful set (by Matthew Smucker) make the play blast by with the audience easily keeping pace.
Connor Toms as Hamlet does a wonderful job making the classic role endearing and truthful, as well as entertaining all ages. At a few moments I was definitely reminded that it was a children’s production I was watching, but only with benefit to my enjoyment. Playing opposite Toms is Peter Crook as Claudius and the voice of the Ghost of King Hamlet. He keeps to the truth of the play and Claudius’ motives, while also keeping it accessible to anyone. Darragh Kennan, Renata Friedman and Amy Thone all take on the difficult task of playing three characters each. Thone has the daunting task of performing Gertrude, the gravedigger and Guildenstern. Her Gertrude is so solid that one can honestly forget that there is an actor and become distracted by the honesty of her performance. Her gravedigger is a complete change, bringing comedic timing to the forefront. Meanwhile, Kennan’s performances as the Player, as well as both Laertes and Polonius is precise and splendid. Keeping track of one character playing both father and son seems like it would be confusing, but with just a few specific changes, Kennan keeps everything clear and distinct. Friedman, similarly, keeps Horatio and Rosencrantz as well as Ophelia distinctive and individual.
Hamlet as presented by Rita Giomi at the Seattle Children’s Theatre is truly a wonderful experience. It really is a wonderful reminder of just how spectacular this show is.
Review by Nigel Andrews and Lia Morgan
Photo by Chris Bennion