Hamlet | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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HAMLET, Stage Two Theatre Company and Inclusive Theatre. According to the press materials, "This Hamlet focuses on the theme of the nuclear family," a choice as insupportable as using Buried Child to examine the worldview of the Elizabethan aristocracy. No matter, the theme never materializes onstage. Instead director Nancy Sheeber tries to get her audience to "identify" with the title character, explaining that "this Hamlet could be anyone"--except of course that if he were he wouldn't be a Shakespearean tragic hero.

And in this production, unsurprisingly, he's not. Nicole Walder, while not without admirable commitment to her role, reduces the great Dane to a petulant adolescent, transforming his magnificent soliloquies into irritable complaints, darting back and forth across the stage all evening for no discernible reason. The rest of the cast seems to be on autopilot much of the time, more intent on articulating all their Ts than on listening to one another, let alone themselves. Sheeber's bare-bones, quasi-Kabuki design produces some arresting images, as when the ghost of Hamlet's father appears, eerily pressed against a piece of white gauze held suspended between two hooded figures. But the fidgety cast can't compete with such a simple, direct image; when the ghost finally speaks he's upstaged by a piece of cloth.

--Justin Hayford

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