Thrilling ‘Hamlet’

Review from Advocate News, Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thrilling Hamlet

By Elizabeth Tallent

Hats off to the Rock the Ground Theater Company for their bold and spirited version of “Hamlet.” We were a little worried about sitting for four hours, but the old Lions Club building was comfortably warm and well arranged, and our closeness to the actors and audience intimate and powerful. The cerements of the towering Ghost swished right past the toes of your shoes, and beautiful lost Ophelia was close enough to hand a sprig of rosemary to a girl in the audience.

This “Hamlet” was a visual feast thanks to the clever set design and Evan Candini’s brilliant costumes. In his grotesque mask, the Ghost alone was worth the price of admission: as played by the superb actor Jonathan Haugen it embodied both the commanding nobility of the dead King and the anguish of a damned soul. And in many versions Polonius is kept deliberately dull as ashes, but the subtle and amusing David Woolis warmed up the old courtier’s wit with fresh humanity. With glittering sidelong glances, Alena Guest nailed Gertrude’s mute rage at her treacherous husband, Dan Kozloff’s coldly regal Claudius, and in an understated pitch-perfect performance Bruce Cole as Horatio embodied the honesty found in only one man in ten thousand. Hugh Dignon’s rich knowledge of the part made for a dangerous, tormented Prince.

Beginning with the first line Shakespeare scratched onto the page, this play is the result of daring, commitment, and passion whose latest incarnation is the Rock the Ground Company. Thank you one and all for your art and for a thrilling “Hamlet.”