Hamlet | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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HAMLET, Folio Theatre Company. There's only one thing worse than bad Shakespeare, and that's merely adequate Shakespeare. At least a crappy production has pompous performances, absurd costumes, and ridiculous accents, which may not inspire deep thought but can stimulate convulsive giggle fits. When Shakespeare isn't brilliantly awful or awfully brilliant, he's usually just plain dull.

Folio Theatre's Hamlet, directed by Alec Wild (and running in repertory with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead), is one of those serviceable, workmanlike efforts, diligently acted and expertly pronounced but lacking the invention and electricity to set it apart from the endless skull-contemplating slacker Danes that droop across local stages year after year.

Wild claims to have sliced 1,300 lines from the play. Few are specifically missed, but their absence throws the pacing off, and one scene jerks into the next. A sense of dramatic progression is missing, putting distance between audience and character even though Folio's tiny space has you within spitting reach of most of the thespians.

Christopher Gerson, who bears a passing resemblance to Olivier if you really squint, is able but not especially sympathetic or intelligent in the role of Hamlet, spending a large portion of the play with the same stupefied puppy-dog gaze on his face. Better is Cheryl Graeff's Ophelia, the most idiosyncratic and consequently the most intriguing performance; Graeff delivers her lines with a strangely comic syncopated cadence, somehow recalling both Meryl Streep and Marge Simpson. But neither she nor anyone else in Folio's production can save it from being just another Hamlet, one that won't make anyone forget Olivier. Or even Mel Gibson.

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