Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 9:28 a.m.
James Napoleon Stone (Laertes), Meri Golden (Gurtrude), Arther Peden (Claudius) in Hamlet.
Photo by Studio Laguna Photography
It's a decided mixed bag with Theatre Coup d'Etat's latest effort. The young company's third go-round with Shakespeare finds them tackling the difficult text of Hamlet. To the company's credit, there are plenty of excellent moments and ideas spread throughout the show, from the location itself to a number of the performances.
It is the telling of the troubled Danish prince, and the political machinations that eventually grind him and the rest of the court up that is most troubled in this instance.
In an ultimately unwise move, the company chose a group-directing approach to the text. That has led to a particularly uneven evening of theater that lacks a real focus. Oh, the story and the text are all here, but the ultimate shape isn't there.
That means it is never clear whose story is being told: Is it of the title character, ordered to get revenge for his murdered father, but unable to pull the (literal in this case) trigger? Is it about the murdering uncle turned stepfather Claudius, wracked by guilt but too deep into the plot to go back? There's the aggrieved Laertes, who doesn't hesitate on his trip to revenge. And we shouldn't forget the two women, Gertrude and Ophelia, who get caught up in the webs woven by the men.
All of these characters get their moments in the sun, but the production never makes a final choice. In turn, that makes the actors seem as though they are appearing in different plays depending on the scene and situation.
That doesn't mean there aren't fine moment-to-moment stretches here, especially when the Turnblad Mansion ballroom location is used to full effect. The playing space is intimate, and the acoustics make it easy to hear every whispered aside.
During the opening moments with Hamlet senior's ghost, the arena is almost completely dark, illuminated mainly by flashlights. The ghostly visage appears, decked out in white and wearing a gas mask. The effect is unsettling and immediate, setting the stage for what could be a strong rendition of the play. That version may lie in the work done by the company. It still needs to be found.
IF YOU GO
Through June 9
American Swedish Institute's Turnblad Mansion,
2600 Park Ave., Minneapolis
For information and tickets, visit online.