Reinhardt’s Theatre Department performed the classic Hamlet with an added Chinese flair.
The Shakespearian tragedy is traditionally set in Demark and follows the titular character’s quest for revenge against his uncle. During the story, Hamlet’s recently deceased father returns as a vengeful spirit and imparts on his son the identity of his killer: Hamlet’s uncle Claudius. Seeking revenge on the usurper, Hamlet devises a plan to slay his uncle by pretending to have gone mad until the golden opportunity arrives. By the final curtain, he is indeed successful, but not before being cut by a poisoned blade himself. Reinhardt’s production retains this story, but not the locale.
Directed by Reinhardt Theatre professor Stewart Hawley, this production of the Shakespearean tale was set in Beijing, China with costumes, set and actions altered accordingly. Hamlet wielded a staff, inspired by the Chinese legend of Sun WuKong the Monkey King, rather than a sword, and each actor wore kabuki-styled makeup and period designed robes. The set was a simple raised platform with an apron and two pillars allowing it to serve every scene without any major set changes. Thanks in part to the simple design and color scheme, “The minimalist set really let the actors and costumes pop out from the stage,” said theater-goer Drew Petty.
Alongside such an eye-pleasing appearance came a series of incredible combat choreography, as each scene featuring a weapon of any kind (of which there were many) came across as real battles unfolding onstage. Hamlet himself, played by Josh Baldwin (junior), personified this the best as many scenes saw him flipping over people and furniture with his staff in ways that surely took many weeks of practice to master in such a way.
In terms of acting, Baldwin gave a wonderful performance as the titular Hamlet with costars Nichols Cothran, as Claudius and Hamlet’s father, and Tyler Bucher, as Ophelia’s father Polonius, giving especially memorable performances. Special mention goes to Ophelia herself, played by senior Sarah Williams. Williams’ range of tone and emotions as Ophelia brought the character to life quite beautifully. “Sarah’s portrayal … was my favorite out of all the Ophelia’s I’ve seen. Her madness was very convincing and was by far the most entertaining character,” said Gordy Dining worker Rachel Riley.
Overall, this unique spin on a classic tale was quite enjoyable to witness. The blend of familiar dialogue imposed over a new location only stood out on the rare occasion and, aside from minor technical/sound issues, was easy to follow and comprehend. The cast and crew did a great job bringing this new spin on an old tale to life and certainly deserved the applause they received.
Written by: Jacob Howard Photo Credits: Jacob Howard