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Sonoma County Gazette
The Ghost (David Gonzalez) haunts the night watch.

Review – ‘Hamlet’ at Spreckels Theatre Company

Feb 12, 2019
by Alexa Chipman


Hamlet’ is often over-embellished, rather than allowing the spectacular wordsmithing of William Shakespeare to shine through. This unapologetically classic staging uncovers natural moments of humor and heartbreak.Sheri Lee Miller’s direction does not insert superfluous devices designed to impress; it has a sweeping cinematic style that augments the original text. Projections of monochromatic stone and swirling Northern Lights add an ominous, supernatural quality to the mist-strewn setting.

Ophelia (Ivy Rose Miller) pleads with Hamlet (Keith Baker) to remember their love.Women take center stage in this production, both literally and figuratively. Ophelia’s soulful reaction to Hamlet’s rejection leaves her mourning the loss of love, seated prominently downstage, while the men continue their scene at a distance, prattling on about foolish plots. Ivy Rose Miller’s earnest, compassionate Ophelia is a memorable performance, without being overly dramatic.

The tragic romance of Hamlet and Ophelia is given careful thought, portrayed as a relationship springing from deep, keenly felt love. His infamous phrase “get thee to a nunnery” is spoken softly, almost with tears, as he tries to save her from the dangerous path he is choosing to take.

Keith Baker exudes nobility as Hamlet, from his casual use of authority to expert manipulation of court politics. Rather than coming across as moody or petulant, Baker finds a genuine expression of sorrow and irritation that his mother seems to have moved on in a matter of months, while he is still passionately grieving. The Hamlet of this production is struggling to make sense of his father’s death, but maintains the ability to reason, rather than giving in to pure emotion. Miller’s direction emphasizes specific words to layer in meaning, such as angry disgust from Hamlet in an early scene, when he agrees that his father’s passing was indeed “common.”

Hamlet (Keith Baker) and Laertes (Chris Ginesi) fence as the court looks on.

Spreckels Theatre Company has gathered a stellar ensemble. Eric Thompson’s Polonius drew quite a few laughs from the audience, Chad Yarish has a quiet strength as the loyal Horatio, and Anderson Templeton is delightfully foppish as Osric.

Chris Ginesi dominates the stage as Hamlet’s rival, Laertes, leading to a less than friendly fencing match. Although the fight choreography leans heavily toward theatricality, rather than accuracy, the excitement of the scene is not dimmed.

Tastefully elegant costume designs by Pamela J. Johnson are inspired by fourteenth-century fashions, emphasizing sideless surcotes for Ophelia and billowing sleeves for her father.

Horatio (Chad Yarish) and Marcellus (Anderson Templeton) swear on the sword of Hamlet (Keith Baker) that they will say nothing of the unearthly encounter.

Eddy Hansen’s eerie lighting design is unafraid of darkness, causing chiaroscuro effects in poignant scenes, and giving the Ghost (David Gonzalez) a chilling entrance.

This production is beautifully staged, with an outstanding cast. If you have never seen ‘Hamlet,’ this is an opportunity to witness how it was meant to be performed. If you are weary of subpar renditions, Spreckels will remind you why Shakespeare’s bewitching language has often been heralded as a masterpiece.


Presented by Spreckels Theatre Company through February 17, 2019
Thurs at 7:00pm, Fri/Sat at 8:00pm, Sun at 2:00pm
Tickets: $26 general, $24 seniors, $16 children, $10 students

Nellie W. Codding Theatre at Spreckels Performing Arts Center
5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park, CA 94928
(707) 588-3400

Photos by Jeff Thomas

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Alexa Chipman Theater reviews


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