What’s on the page gets on the stage in Falcon Theatre’s Hamlet. Words and plot are explicated with energy, clarity and conviction — but there’s little resonance to Shakespeare’s 400-year-old tale of howling revenge.
Chasms of inference, implication and speculation brood beneath the bloody surface of the script, causing many critics to consider Hamlet the greatest play ever written. But of these there’s little hint at the tiny Monmouth Theatre in Newport.
Falcon’s 16 actors, playing 26 roles, get a job of entertainment done the way installments of Numb3rs and CSI get a job done. Denmark’s king is murdered. His usurping brother too quickly marries the widowed queen. Prince Hamlet dallies cruelly with fragile Ophelia, driving her into insanity. He meets his father’s furious ghost, stages a play within the play, then feigns madness as he executes revenge — littering the stage with bodies including his own.
Actors speak with speed and intensity. Too often it’s empty: declaiming, not acting. Scene ends overlap cinematically. The production rips through the long, long script in two hours and 45 minutes. Certain plot-driven scenes — Ophelia’s mad scene, her funeral, the swords-clanging, poison-swapping denouement — play with melodramatic authority. Unhappily, many character-driven scenes deflate into rant.
Having three directors busied with too many other chores denies the production a guiding, unifying vision. Nobody helped Queen Gertrude (co-director Tracy M. Schoster) or Polonius (Jim Waldfogle) integrate seemingly contradictory behaviors into complex characterizations. Nobody led too-casual Terry Gosdin to instill kingly menace into Claudius. Nobody helped co-director Holly Sauerbrunn deliver a Horatio who is not just strong but tragic.
Carrie Mees has graceful moments as Ophelia. David Roth nails the Gravedigger’s mordant, wordy humor. As Hamlet, actor-director-producer-designer Ted J. Weil looks gaunt, rolls his eyes and talks more than he listens, making the Prince into a narrow-focused revenger with too little self-doubt. Maybe he could do more if he did less.
HAMLET, presented by Falcon Theatre, continues through March 7 at Monmouth Theater. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.