The Play’s the thing – a review of “Hamlet”

by Michael Buzzelli

Nary two months from his funeral, the ghost of the former king (Dereck Walton) warns his son, Hamlet (Treasure Treasure), that he has been murdered by his brother, Claudius (Sam Turich). The ghost wants revenge and it’s the Danish prince’s duty to carry out his father’s final wish in William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

Claudius now wed to Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude (Robin Walsh), is suspicious of the young prince because he can’t seem to stop mourning his dead dad. He’s unaware that his dead bro snitched from his ditch.

Hamlet must prove his father’s apparition is telling the truth and sets about a course to prove the ghost. Only his one true friend Horatio (Brett Mack) witnessed the spectral sighting and Hamlet has sworn his pal to secrecy.

Elsewhere in Elsinore, Laertes (Brenden Peifer) sets off for school after saying goodbye to his sister Ophelia (Saige Smith). Right before his departure, his father, Polonius (Thom Delventhal), counsels the youth with a plethora of advice.

When a group of players come to town, Hamlet convinces them to perform “The Murder of Gonzago,” wherein a king is murdered in the same circumstance as Hamlet’s dad. Claudius gets visibly upset and Hamlet realizes he’s caught the conscious of the king.

Now, he must act. It’s time to kill his uncle and set the kingdom to right, but he is hampered by his own hesitation…and it costs him everything.

Treasure Treasure as Hamlet.

Jeffery Carpenter directs a delightful rendition of the play. It’s swift and buoyant, speeding by under three hours (plus intermission). Carpenter brings out the comedy in the tragedy. He finds the moments of Hamlet’s wit and brings them forward in this brisk retelling of the tale. It’s energetic.

Treasure is a treasure as Hamlet. She is not the morose, brooding teen, but an effervescent trickster.  While plagued with doubt, her Hamlet takes pleasure in being the smartest person in the castle, casting jibes and spilling out bon mots with electricity.

Turich is a villainous Claudius. He cuts a magnificent presence, looming large over the cast, spitting out his venomous lines in a bold baritone.

While Smith shines in every scene as Ophelia, she sings her manic monologue and it’s soulful, rocking dirge that leads to her final moments on the stage. Smith is delightfully demented.

Yes. There’s music. It’s not a full-on nod to Harold Hecuba’s production of “Hamlet: The Musical,” but it rocks out a few times. Gilligan and his fellow castaways would be proud.*

*60s sitcom reference alert.

Laertes (Brenden Peifer) confronts his sister Ophelia (Saige Smith) in Hamlet.

Polonius himself would praise Delventhal as the best actor in the world for either tragedy or comedy. Here Delventhal’s comic timing is on full display. He’s chewed up the dystopian scenery. While he has some of the most memorable lines in the show, some of the best laughs come at Polonius’s expense.

Peifer is a spot-on Laertes, full of rage and passion. While it’s tough to mourn his father’s death, Laertes and Ophelia are tragic figures caught up in Claudius and Hamlet’s deadly chess game.

Rosencrantz (Dave Mansueto) and Guildenstern (Theo Allyn) are very much alive in this production. They are bright and cheery foes for the prince. They have some clever repartee expertly delivered. Mansueto pulls double duty as the Gravedigger and the humor between he and Hamlet is marvelously executed.

The Carrie Furnace is the setting for Tony Ferrieri’s castle Elsinore. A place that lives simultaneously in a crumbling past and apocalyptic future.  It’s the Thunderdome with lots of gray brick and mortar, overshadowed by the decaying metallic monolith lit in blues and purples by C. Todd Brown. It casts a striking shadow over the entire production, rife with rusting pipes, pillars and parapets. It’s a moody, post-industrial extravaganza.

Susan Tzu’s costumes are works of art.  They are sleek, black, functional with a militaristic flare. Though a gray evening gown was an awkward choice for a swordfight, it works on Treasure’s Hamlet.

There are many “Don’t Miss it” shows in Pittsburgh, but this is more than that. It’s Shakespeare, but it’s also a grand experience. It’s a hit, a palpable hit.

– MB

“Hamlet” runs from August 4 to August 27 at the Carrie Furnace, Carrie Furnace Boulevard, Rankin, PA 15104. for more information, click here.

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