A Singer's Notes by Keith Kibler

A Singer’s Notes 108: To be or not to be, that is the question

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Hamlet at the Capital Rep
Hamlet at the Capital Rep

This most famous quote, precariously balanced, elevates the word question to existential status. Hamlet is a play of questions. Could Gertrude following hard after, have saved Ophelia from drowning? Did Hamlet ever love Ophelia? Is the ghost real? There is a glimmer of hope—Hamlet lets us know very clearly that if he had more time, being blessed finally with the proximity of death and its widening of perception, he could tell us more. Perhaps he could answer some of these questions. But of course, he doesn’t. David Kenner as Hamlet in Capital Rep’s fine new production is all energy. He powers his way through questions, and for me, admirably, left them even more unanswered. He might have said instead of, “the readiness is all,” “the energy is all.” Kenner stayed true to this vital concept to the very end. That said, the scene I loved most in the production was the early scene between Hamlet and Ophelia, the tender one. Vanessa Sterling as Ophelia was for me the finest actor in this production, and in this scene she got gentleness out of him. It ended without the kind of rancor we are used to, but with a kind of resignation on Hamlet’s part. The intensity of Ms. Sterling’s speaking held the house in silence. No fluttering butterfly this one, she owned her moments. I could have done without the way the canned music made her sing the mad song. Well-intentioned I’m sure, it put a harness on her speech. That said this Ophelia was easily one of the finest I have seen.
The women’s roles in this play included another superb performance—Deanne Lorette’s Gertrude was not a clueless matron. She never let us know whether she understood that Claudius had killed old Hamlet, but I saw in the way that she took the poisoned cup—willingly, deliberately—that she knew all. Her lines, like all great acting, were a tightrope act between music and syntax. Music won.
As I have seen in many of Kevin McGuire’s productions, there was no foolishness. Each scene was clearly and directly played—no gimmicks. The above merely catalogs my favorites. No production of Hamlet is ever complete, none of the questions is answered. The actors I mention above went furthest, and saw the value of the questions themselves.

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