So how do I review the greatest dramatic play ever written?
Well, of course I can’t…
But what I can do is to tell you just how magnificent this production of Hamlet, by The Archway Studio Theatre, truly is!
The Archway Theatre Company is a recent transplant from the Downtown Arts District, and this is a company of actors clearly in love with the strength and fierceness of Shakespeare. Every single actor in this play, without exception, is given the space and the time to bring a fullness and a very real presence to their role, a treat in a play of this length and with such an obvious lead character around which the play revolves. The director, Mr Sabel, integrates these individual performances to such a degree that every scene flows seamlessly, cinematically, and full of a compelling energy. The actors are electric on stage, their own secret stories barely contained within them, resulting in an incredibly dynamic and dramatic stage.
We feel the heart beat of this huge play, not heavy or slow, but intense and thrilling. And as the story plays out before us the rhythm of this heart quickens and quickens to its explosive conclusion.
Hamlet is a play about the despair, loss and the complex nature of a son’s relationship with his mother, the crushing carelessness of love and our minds' ability to justify its own end.
Is Hamlet mad, or is he merely manipulating us? Is Ophelia mad, or bereft and abandoned? Is Gertrude an adulterer and a party to the death of her husband, or does she dismiss Hamlet’s claim that her new husband Claudius murdered the King because she knows it simply isn’t true…and how does she know this?
There is an awful lot left unanswered in Hamlet, an awful lot left up to the audience to decide for themselves, which is really fascinating to watch, when done well, and this production is done really, really well.
It’s deceptively traditional in its brilliant costuming and simple set, and yet I was struck at how strangely modern the story of Hamlet really is, and the relationships between the characters seem so familiar.
This is, I believe, because these wonderful actors have a deep understanding of these people. They stand on stage, in their impeccable costumes, speaking these truly iconic words and yet it all seems to fresh, so utterly relatable.
The performances are really excellent. The direction so supportive and honest that you forget that this play is set 600 years ago, and you watch in awe as one terrible event after another unfold before you as if it were happening to you, to your friends, to your family, and with that intimacy comes the complete understanding.
Hamlet was destined to die, from the moment the curtain rises, he is a dead prince walking. Ophelia too, far too delicate to survive a world where slaughter is commonplace and betrayal routine. The big soliloquies, Hamlet’s way of reasoning with himself and us about his method of destruction are spoken with an ever spiraling madness driven by sadness and anger and even humor at the impossibility of his position. All of this was captured quite brilliantly by Christopher Karbo. A Hamlet charming, bold and nutty, but not without an anchoring of humanity. He plays a Prince used to being indulged by family and friends, all too happy to accept his already eccentric nature, allowing him to push his performance through madness and past anger and regret without us ever questioning the wild under-reaction of everyone else all around him.
It’s really a wonderful production.
The pace is perfect, everything moves seamlessly along, pauses and breaks covered by darkness and the moving music of Gary Jules' version of ‘Mad World’, so aptly reminding us of what we are here to witness, and a very clever way to link us now, to Hamlet then.
Everyone is really excellent, Mary Carrig a genuine and complex Gertrude, Kei’la Ryan a winsome and ethereally lost Ophelia and Eric Castro a slimy and far too gleeful Claudius.
I highly recommend ‘Hamlet’ at The Archway Studio Theatre, North Hollywood. If you have a love for Shakespeare you will not be disappointed…
‘Hamlet’ runs from February 19th through March 26th, 8pm Fridays and Saturdays and 2pm Sundays.
10509 Burbank Blvd, North Hollywood (818) 980 - PLAY
Christopher Karbo, Eric Castro, Mary Carrig, Charles Howell IV, Kei’la Ryan, Laura Zenoni, Ryan Fisher, Taylor Marr, Michael Hanna, David Bannick, Effie Antigone, Gabriel Boyle, John Eddings, Kate Hart, Will Holbrook, Faith Kearns, Austin Brown, Kevin Roland, Jeremiah Benjamin
Producing Artistic Director - Steven Sabel
Stage Manager - Will Kleist
Scenic Design - Steven Sabel
Costumes - Sarah Morris, Sara Davenport
Players Pre-Show Creation - Kate Hart, Faith Kearns
Musical Coordinator - Steven Sabel
Resident Photographer - Elias McCabe
Graphic Designer - Michael Hanna
House Manager - Annie Freeman