Sunday, May 22, 2022

Antaeus The Bard and the Dane

Antaeus Theatre Company has taken a hit from the dampanic, but dives back in for an in person production with a somewhat modern take on the classic tragedy: William Shakespeare's "Hamlet". 

There is something to be said for 'diversity casting'. Director Elizabeth Swain has stretched this idea beyond the pale but still the heart of the most familiar parts of Hamlet are solid. Ramón de Ocampo as Hamlet, Veralyn Jones as Gertrude,   and Adam J. Smith as Horatio  are singualr in their roles. Not all traditional, but steady.

Ramón de Ocampo, and Adam J. Smith
Photo by Frank Ishman

Swain's multiple casting  is somewhat confusing. One problem is because the excellent Sally Hughes is lumbered with so many different characters that it's difficult to discern whom she might be at any given time. The final scene of  the play: Act V, with the arrival of Fortinbras (Ms Hughes) discovering the remnants of the melee is difficult to appreciate. 

Michael Kirby as The Player Queen is convincing.  Sadly his Laertes may have just fallen off the turnip truck. Of course, the audience must abandon disbelief, but it's the responsibility of the production to guide us there.  

Shakespeare's  plots are well conceived and the verse, once we get the hang of the iambic pentameter...  and the actors fall in cadance, we settle back. To me it's like enjoying the music of a favorite band when they cover their own familiar hits. We can recall 'Speak the Speech' or "To be or not to be..." de Ocampo does not disappoint.

Ramón de Ocampo as Hamlet is by nature a super protean. Like the Little Engine That Could de Ocampo rises to the challenge and draws us in by speaking directly to the audience. 

Conversely, I found difficulty understanding the somewhat muddy speech patterns of Gregg T. Daniel as Claudius. As the Ghost, he shines.

The two actors having the most fun, are Peter Van Norden as Polonius (and as the Grave Digger) and Joel Swetlow in the plum role of the First Player.  

For an unknown reason, the staging of the scene between Gertrude and Hamlet with Polonius hidden behind a curtain has the curtain virtually hidden off stage. Something odd happened in the scene when (spoiler alert!)  Polonius is stabbed behind the arras that brought a laugh. The staging was awkward and it may have just been a mistake.

The essence of Hamlet is, to me,  the myriad of questions that Shakespeare scholars have debated for centuries. de Ocampo exhibits the melancholy side of the Dane and plays the madness well. Is it better to suffer the slings and arrows? Really?

Jeanne Syquia finds Ophelia's arc, but  after we bury Ophelia, why director Swain  cast Ms Syquia  as Osric seems a mistake.The hat business in the text seems to suggest that Osric is probably a gay man. Sometimes a man should be played by a man.

Thanks to Stephen Gifford's exotic set design and lighting by  Jared A. Sayeg and especially bone rattling thunder by Sound Designer Cricket S. Myers Elsinore is brought to life.

Ramón de Ocampo as Hamlet
Gregg T. Daniel as Claudius
 Veralyn Jones as Gertrude
Jeanne Syquia as Ophelia
Peter Van Norden as Polonius
 Michael Kirby as Laertes and Player Queen
Adam J. Smith as Horatio
Sally Hughes, Lloyd Roberson II and Joel Swetow each play multiple roles.  
Per the press release: "Creative team includes scenic designer Stephen Gifford, costume designer Dianne K. Graebner, lighting designer Jared A. Sayegthe, sound designer Cricket S. Myers, prop master Shen Heckel and violence designer Ned Mochel."

Bottom line is that this production deserves an audience and a trip to Glendale is one that fans of Antaeus must take. My criticisms are personal, but the show should be seen.
by William Shakespeare
Anateus Theatre Company
Directed by: Elizabeth Swain 
Antaeus Theatre Company
Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center
110 East Broadway
Glendale, CA 91205
Performances: May 20 – June 20
• Fridays at 8 p.m.: May 20 (Opening), May 27, June 3, June 10, June 17
• Saturdays at 2 p.m.: May 28, June 4, June 11, June 18 (no matinee on Saturday, May 21)
• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: May 21, May 28, June 4, June 11, June 18
• Sundays at 2 p.m.: May 15 (preview), May 22, May 29, June 5, June 12, June 19
• Mondays at 8 p.m.: June 6, June 13, June 20 (dark May 23 and May 30)
Tickets and Information:
(818) 506-1983 or
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