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You could argue that what makes Hamlet difficult to produce today is its sheer familiarity. This efficient, concept-free staging by veteran British director Terry Hands is more intelligent than passionate: he refuses to belabor the obvious or the notorious in Shakespeare's tragedy. Free of doubt even when he's indecisive, Ben Carlson's Hamlet broods brilliantly. He makes few discoveries before our eyes but knows so perfectly what he's saying, as well as why, that surrendering spontaneity to clarity feels right. The passion lies elsewhere--in the brittle innocence of Lindsay Gould's Ophelia and the venality of Barbara Robertson's material mother. If there are few surprises in Mike Nussbaum's dithering Polonius and Andrew Ahrens's angry Laertes, at least familiarity here doesn't breed contempt. Through 11/18: Tue 7:30 PM, Wed 1 and 7:30 PM, Thu-Fri 7:30 PM, Sat 3 and 8 PM, Sun 3 PM, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand, 312-595-5600, $40-$67.

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