Nothing’s Rotten In the State of Denmark: HAMLET at the REP

by Marshall Garrett
Elizabeth Hefiln as Gertrude and Michael Gotch as Hamlet in the REP production of HAMLET. (Photo credit: Paul Cerro)

Elizabeth Hefiln as Gertrude and Michael Gotch as Hamlet in the REP production of HAMLET. (Photo credit: Paul Cerro)

It’s shockingly rare to be able to actually catch a professional production of the most famous play ever written, but you have an excellent chance to do that right now at the REP in Newark, DE. A perfect production of this play is impossible, and this is no exception. However, the goods of this production far outweigh its weaknesses, and there are certainly no complaints about the script.

I admit to being confused when I began to read promotional materials regarding this production, way back when the season was first announced, and the emphasis was all on the design team that had been assembled. The moment I walked into the theatre, my confusion was quelled – the set is absolutely breathtaking. Imposing, stark, and complex without being distracting, the space immediately was unsettling and ominous. There was a beautiful use of a grave-sized opening in the front of the stage, from which the Ghost occasionally emerged and Ophelia was buried, but over-use in other moments reduced its effectiveness.  Lighting in the ghost scenes and in the intermission was excellent, although I must say that throughout the rest of the play it seemed uneven and functional at best.

When critiquing the performances at the REP, the baseline is excellence, a point I always make when reviewing their productions before getting to specifics. In New Castle county, it is nearly impossible to find performances as you will at the REP, an ever strengthening group of actors, made all the better by their growth as a company. Specific accolades in this production go to the always-excellent Stephen Pelinski, playing Claudius, who seems to be having the hottest streak over the last year of any actor I’ve seen; Elizabeth Heflin as Gertrude, delivering the most subtle and believable queen I’ve seen that is completely unaware of Claudius’ treachery, and Steve Tague as the bumbling Polonius.

Erin Partin as Ophelia and Michael Gotch as Hamlet.  (Photo credit: Paul Cerro)

Erin Partin as Ophelia and Michael Gotch as Hamlet. (Photo credit: Paul Cerro)

I can hear you thinking – four paragraphs in, why hasn’t he even mentioned Michael Gotch as Hamlet yet? I will admit that this performance does have the misfortune of being my most anticipated one of the year, and I had very high hopes. While Gotch is commendable as the melancholy Dane, he seemed to never quite decide on who Hamlet really is. One of the great delights of this play is that the role can be interpreted many different ways by the actor playing him, but Gotch seems to decide on none of them, presenting a different Hamlet from moment to moment. Director Mark Lamos, who has a long familiarity with the play and presented the most dynamic and heartbreaking interpretation of Ophelia I’ve ever seen, fails to guide Gotch to a solid interpretation on the role and thus an excellent production has at best a shaky foundation.

by William Shakespeare
Directed by Mark Lamos
Through March 17, 2013
Resident Ensemble Players, University of Delaware
Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE 19716

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Julie March 20, 2013 - 5:32 pm

My husband and I were fortunate to have tickets for opening night of Hamlet. We actually saw it twice. We loved every minute of the play and certainly agree with you regarding the performances of the entire cast being “excellent”. However, we are so disappointed in your comments regarding Hamlet (Michael Gotch) and Mark Lamos. Hamlet WAS confused, depressed, angry, scared, and yes, CRAZY. He lost his father whom he loved; saw his father’s ghost; found out his stepfather (whom he hated already) murdered his father for the crown; thought his mother (whom he loved) knew of this murder and now hated her; broke up with girlfriend, Ophelia; came home to find out Ophelia had gone crazy and killed herself; knew he had been cheated out of being King; didn’t know who he could trust; knew he was being spied on —- and all the time trying to devise a plan to reveal to everyone his stepfather’s horrible deed and also achieve the revenge his father asked of him. Now, tell me, which one of those feelings/personalities should Hamlet have portrayed throughout the play to convey to the audience exactly what was happening to HIM. We thought Michael was absolutely remarkable. We sat at both performances and actually FELT his pain/confusion/hatred/and love because of his acting. He brought us directly into Hamlet’s life. You are so wrong on this one and you did both Mark Lamos and Micheal Gotch an injustice with your remarks. There certainly was not a shaky foundation to the play – especially from Hamlet.

Liz March 20, 2013 - 5:36 pm

Mark Lamos directed Michael Gotch to portray ALL the emotions that Hamlet was experiencing for each scene – and Michael acted them not only perfectly per each mood – but also so that WE in the audience understood exactly what he was feeling. It’s too bad that YOU couldn’t “see” past the words as the audience did. You are absolutely correct about the set and the entire cast putting on a performance that is excellent – as well as costume, sound and special effects. Top notch.


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