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THEATER REVIEW: Intrepid Shakespeare Company's “Hamlet”

Intrigue, murder, ghosts, jilted lovers, poison, swordplay – “Hamlet” has it all, in addition to a killer of a title role that actors would die for (no pun intended).

Intrepid Shakespeare Company co-founder Sean Cox takes on the huge Shakespearean role and gives it a brilliant interpretation. But better hurry – the show runs only through Feb. 17.

You recall the plot. The famous “something rotten in Denmark” is no less than murder – the murder of Hamlet’s father the king by his brother Claudius (Tom Stephenson). To compound the felony, he’s married Hamlet’s mother Gertrude (Debra Wagner).

Hamlet, who seems a bit delicate of psyche anyway, goes even further round the bend when he sees the ghost of his father, asking for revenge. He hatches a plot to verify the king’s guilt (involving a roving band of actors re-enacting a famous murder in Claudius’ presence) and starts acting really strange.

He puts his antic disposition on with such a vengeance, you’ll want to run up and give him some meds. And when he goes into that broody thing, and you’re sure he really needs ‘em.

He even decides to give girlfriend Ophelia (Jennifer Eve Thorn) the brushoff, telling her to become a nun. This will not end well, for her or any of the major characters including brother Laertes (Brian Mackey), who will face off with Hamlet in an unfortunate sword fight.

Intrepid’s production, directed by co-founder Christy Yael, has updated the action to the 20th century and put most of the seating on the long side of the basketball court-shaped theater. Sean Fanning’s clever set is more suggestive than revealing and works well for most patrons. Sitting on the long side brings the audience close to the action, but also keeps some patrons from seeing what takes place at either end. (Two schoolgirls in front of me stood up a few times for a better view of the gravediggers.)

Cox is the standout in the cast, but Thorn is also a convincing Ophelia, especially in her mad scene.

Mackey’s Laertes, and Tom Hall’s Horatio and Jim Chovick as several characters are fine as well.

I didn’t find Wendy Waddell and Steven Grawrock convincing as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. I couldn’t see gravediggers Bryan Barbarin and Eddie Yaroch, nor hear them adequately.

Speaking of hearing, when cast members occasionally speak upstage, it is difficult to hear.

These stumbles aside, this “Hamlet” is worth seeing.

The details

“Hamlet” plays through Feb. 17 at the Clayton E. Liggett Theatre
800 Santa Fe Drive, Encinitas (on campus of San Dieguito Academy).

Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 and 7 pm; Saturday, Feb. 16 at 3 pm.

For tickets: (800) 718-4253 or HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.