Last night, A.J. and I went to see Hamlet at Marquette University. I’m sure that when you hear the name of this show, you think about when you HAD to read it in high school or maybe you recall some mediocre community theatre or high school production that you experienced years ago. But I have to say, without a doubt, that the Marquette Theatre production was simply the most powerful rendition of this classic show that I have ever seen. In fact, I will go out on a limb and say that this is the best Shakespearean production that we have seen in quite a number of years. To put that in context, we have seen eight of the Bard’s play in the last three or four years.
The Marquette student actors were incredible. There wasn’t a weak performance in the entire ensemble. And the young man that played Hamlet, Kyle Conner, was extraordinary. The role of Hamlet, when done well, requires the actor to change his mood from happy to sad to angry to melancholy over and over again. Kyle played it so naturally and believable. He looked physically drained during the curtain call.
The naturalness of all of the actors is what impressed me the most. So often, Shakespeare’s plays are presented very stiff and formal. I believe this comes from the actors not truly understanding what they are saying. In last night’s production, the dialogue was so conversational that you forgot that it was written in iambic pentameter. It is so much easier to understand Shakespeare when the actors’ emotions and actions are completely in sync with what they are saying. Well done cast.
I don’t want to spoil anything for those that intend to see one of the three remaining performances but the treatment of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy was fantastic. It was one of many terrific directorial choices made in the staging of the show. This is just another element to add tremendous power to the show.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the set and costumes. The set is a very nondescript unit in the center of the stage with columns, arches, stairs, and levels. Its openness allowed you to see all the way to the back wall of the theatre. It uniquely accommodated the various locations in the play. The costumes complimented the set as the cast was dressed in no particular style or time period. Generally, they were in muted shades of black and gray with a splash of color to denote the families to which they aligned.
This was the fifth production that A.J. and I have seen at Marquette in the last few years. Their production quality is always incredible. I am so happy that A.J. has chosen to attend Marquette University in the fall as a Theatre Arts major. We will hopefully see him up on that stage soon.