Cincinnati Shakespeare: Hamlet With a Twist

Review by Sherri Wellington

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s newest rendition of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” makes the viewer look at the play in a new and different way. Hamlet is a woman. Thus, all of Hamlet’s relationships are immediately under scrutiny.  How does Hamlet, as a woman, change the story? 

Brian Isaac Phillips, Producing Artistic Director, and Sarah Lynn Brown, Director and Adapter, present a very dark story in an entertaining  manner with thoughtful set design, (Samantha Reno), fabulous lighting (Justen N. Locke), good acting and movement (Intimacy & Fight Direction, Alicia Rodis).  Intermittent humor relieves the seriousness of the play. 

Sara Clark plays a robust Hamlet who convinces the audience that she, indeed, is descending into madness, and leads Ophelia (Angelique Archer) to madness, too. Laertes (Crystian Wiltshire) tugs at one’s emotions as the brother of doomed Ophelia.  Claudius (Jim Hopkins) is stoic while Gertrude (Sara Mackie) is much more emotional. Horatio (Geoffrey Warren Barnes II) makes Hamlet’s death ever more dramatic. King Hamlet (Jared Joplin) boldly takes the audience solemnly into the other world.  The actor “ranney”  who plays Polonius and Gravedigger performs his parts exceptionally well.

The set design (Samantha Reno) is versatile, interesting, and multi-functional. There are chairs on the right for the main actors to sit upon and to the left a bench for the “Players”  (Courtney Lucien, Nathan Sullivan, Collen Dougherty and Cary Davenport).  In front, there is a white ledge that leads under the stage where the gravediggers and skulls congregate.  There are also steps leading upwards to a balcony.  But beyond all of this, there are two types of screens.  On the right is a circle and the main one is a sheet that has multiple functions.  The primary one though is to see the action close up, making what the audience is seeing much more intimate. (Media Design by Brave Berlin.)

Some of the costumes (Abbi Howson) include a white suit for King Hamlet (Jared Joplin), a royal maroon suit for Claudius (Jim Hopkins), and fun colorful plaid jackets for Guildenstern (Brianna Miller) and Rosencrantz (AJ Baldwin).  However, Hamlet’s garb, which changes from blue to purple in the lighting, and has a sweet bow at the waist, makes it difficult to recognize her as the dark, threatening and murderous prince of other interpretations. The  lighting (Justen N. Locke) plays an integral part in this play for setting the mood.  It accentuates Hamlet’s demeanor,  it assists in lifting moods when Polonius and the Gravedigger entertain the audience as well as emphasizing the energy of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (Miller and Baldwin).       

Okay, all of you Shakespeare enthusiasts, and students, time to get on the website: and order your tickets. See if YOU think if a female Hamlet changes the overall story.  Me? I think it is a great night of theatre–with a twist. “Hamlet” is playing through March 20th. Amenities include easy parking, a decent bar and great seating. What more can one ask for?

Cast of “Hamlet”
Photo: Mikki Schaffner

Sherri Wellington BS, M.Ed. fell in love with the theater when given a flower by an actor during the original Broadway run of Hair.

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