Theater review: ‘Hamlet’ in Griffith Park

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The readiness is not quite all in Independent Shakespeare Co.'s current production of “Hamlet.”

The cast is game, the staging crisp, and the acoustically marvelous natural amphitheater in Griffith Park allows the audience to hear every syllable of the text. Yet there’s an uneven quality to the whole. One can’t quite ascertain whether Melissa Chalsma’s directorial conceits are a bit too bold for certain actors to carry off or whether those certain actors are lumbered by Chalsma’s failed interpretations.

A case in particular point is Mary Guilliams’ Ophelia, whose in-your-face mad scene doesn’t quite come off. No fluttering butterfly in a killing jar, Guilliams’ sword-brandishing vixen seems unlikely to gently weave the “fantastic garlands” that will soon adorn her in muddy death. And Andre Martin’s mannered and emotionally insincere Laertes cries out for a strong directorial curb.

But to belabor another Shakespearean quote, the fault lies not in the production’s star. In the title role, David Melville, who founded the company with Chalsma, is simply riveting, which may explain why certain supporting players underwhelm by sheer contrast. The fact that this Hamlet appears roughly the same age as his mother, Gertrude (Bernadette Sullivan), and fratricidal uncle, Claudius (Sean Pritchett), is a minor quibble ameliorated by the sweep of Melville’s overall performance. This Hamlet is no brooding Dane but rather a propulsive buffoon who romps like a doomed and tragic clown. Richly comical but never cheaply so, Melville’s unusual but fetching performance elevates the production’s more prosaic elements and should be seen.



Theater review: ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ in Griffith Park

-- F. Kathleen Foley

“Hamlet,” Independent Shakespeare Co., Old L.A. Zoo, Griffith Park Drive and Crystal Springs Drive, Griffith Park, Los Angeles. Runs in repertory 7 p.m. Thurdays-Sundays. Ends Aug. 28. Free. (818) 710-6306. Running time: 3 hours.