Court to stage experimental HamletBy Seth Sanders
Court Theatre will usher in 2002 with what it describes as an experimental, physically and emotionally aggressive staging of one of the most famous plays in Western literature, Hamlet.
The set and sound design will explore the concept of emotional noise, the internal and external discord and dissonance that runs through the play. The production, which will run from Thursday, Feb. 14 through Sunday, March 31, stars popular Chicago actor and Court Theatre Artist in Residence Guy Adkins as the young prince.
Court Theatre Artistic Director Charles Newell views Hamlet as having the complexity of a great chamber music piece. He describes the character Claudius, the uncle-murderer trying to establish a strong new rulership, as the dominant voice. Newell considers Gertrude, the aunt-mother, trying to pave over her sons rejection of this new order, the submissive second voice, and Hamlet as representing a rebellious, melancholic undertow that threatens to take over the ensemble. To create this effect, Newell worked with Court Theatre Resident Artists Andre Pluess (A.B., 96) and Ben Sussman (S.B., 94) on a distinctive tonal sound design.
The staging is the result of a long, intensive process of collaboration between designers. Each member of the team contributed to all aspects of the physical design, with unusual results. Robin McFarquhar, fight director, introduced images of the swords to be used in those scenes. These images and the style of the swords were translated into the steel sheets of the final set design.
Although Hamlet is almost universally known and often quoted, there is no definitive text of the play. It was published three times in Shakespeares lifetime as well as after his death. Newell and Court Theatre dramaturge Celise Kalke examined various versions of the play and eventually cut about 30 percent of it in order to focus on Hamlets emotional journey.
Many of the political issues the play raises and the character Fortinbras have been removed entirely. This results in a fast-moving production that should run two hours less than the four and a half hours the play can potentially run.
The play also stars Cassandra Bissell (A.B., 00) as Ophelia. Barbara Robertson, who recently completed a successful and much-lauded performance as Queen Elizabeth in Courts version of Mary Stuart, will play Gertrude. Kevin Gudahl, whose first major role in Chicago was playing Horatio in the Wisdom Bridge production of Hamlet, plays the dual roles of Claudius and the Ghost. John Reeger, who has appeared in more productions at Court Theatre than any other actor in its 47-year history, will play the role of Polonius.
Court Theatre is at 5535 S. Ellis Ave. Performance times and tickets are available from the Court Theatre Box Office at (773) 753-4472 or online at www.courttheater.org.
Half-price rush tickets ($9 for students) are available at the door one hour before the performance begins.