Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
Of course, the two productions were different. The versions would be different if two men had played Hamlet or two women had played Hamlet.
Both actors had short cropped hair. Both were dressed in black with white shirtseither costume could be appropriate for a woman or a man. One of the tests of the quality of the gender's role was the sword fight near the end of the play. The fights were choreographed by Lynn Robert Berg and both fight sequences seemed identical. Each actor had a strong voice, which seemed to fill the theater (yes, they wore microphones).
Laura Welsh Berg played the role as a strong woman, not a woman pretending to be a man. This Hamlet took the stage and made it her own. She rationalizes not killing the King in order not to send him in his prayers to heaven. Yet, the audience knew this Hamlet could plunge the dagger into the King without a moment of regret or desperation.
Women have played Hamlet since 1776 when Mrs. Sarah Siddons took the role. In 1899, Sarah Bernhardt played the part. Other actresses have played Hamlet with varying degrees of success. Laura Welsh Berg played Hamlet with success.
Dyrud is a young man and played Hamlet as a young, energetic man. When he kissed Ophelia everyone in the room knew this long, passionate kiss was part of his love and lust for Ophelia. However, he was hesitant to marry Ophelia because he didn't know what would happen to him when he killed the King. Dyrud paced the stage like a caged lion, desperate to get revenge for his father's murder.
Charles Fee (director) performed a masterful job with his two Hamlets. The two actors made Hamlet an exciting character. Second, Fee kept the pace of the show moving at a quick rhythm without the performances seeming rushed. Fee removed most references to the Fortinbras subplot. The production did not suffer from this clipping.
Scenic designer Russell Metheny attempted to create the circular seating available in the Globe Theatre. Metheny had two rows of seats upstage with a framed doorway and opening between the rows of stage seating. The stage seating had been church pews, including hymnal racks and the little holes for holding the communion cups. I sat in one of those church pew seats for the first act of one performance. I had trouble hearing and seeing. I was able to move to a seat on the front row for the second act and liked that seating much more.
Kim Krumm Sorenson (costume designer) dressed the cast in appropriate Elizabethan costumes.
This was a fine production. We could only wish it would run for several months.
An interesting footnote to the productions of Hamlet is Tom Hanks played Reynaldo in the 1977 production of Hamlet by the Great Lakes Theater.
Great Lakes Theater's Hamlet played March 31 through April 15, 2017, at the Hanna Theatre. For information on the company, please visit www.greatlakestheater.org.
Hamlet: Laura Welsh Berg and Jonathan Dyrud