On the front end of the Complete Works Project, the first time a city in the United States has tried to put on all of Shakespeare’s works in two years, Post5 Theatre presents Hamlet, Shakespeare’s longest play.
The actual theatre Post5 presents Hamlet in is a simple room. Pallets make up one side wall and the other features blacked out windows. Pews sit on a cement floor, or on wooden risers, on three sides of the room, forming a stage in the center and leaving ample space for the players to move around the seating. After all, all the world is a stage, right?
Lights run down the center of the very low ceiling, and are hanging around the sides of the theatre too. There are a couple scattered light fixtures on the floor. In lieu of stage curtains, the fabric-y sort of shower curtains you get for the exterior of your shower to show how fancy you are. They serve as more of a veil to block off or rearrange space than anything else.
Hamlet can be interpreted as so many different kinds of story, Post5 shows off Hamlet as a deeply personal story of a family losing control over their values, losing control of the ones they love, and falling into panic and chaos that leads to an inevitable end for both.
A handful of characters really stood out to me. Tobias Andersen’s Polonius is brilliant, wise and shrewd. His direct, curt style is that of a patriarch managing a family that has had too many problems. Alas, his ill-timed fate is portrayed with poise and brilliance as a red curtain becomes symbolic for his blood as he lay on the ground.
Jeff Gorham’s Claudius is cunning and manipulative, cool and friendly. Always with the pictures, he seems so incredibly family-focused. Yet despite all his calculations and predictions, he just cannot control how mad Hamlet and the rest of the castle become after the death of The King. In the second act, Claudius’ calculations fall away and his true inner madness comes out to play.
Cassandra Boice’s Horatio is probably one of this reviewers favorite parts of this show. Switching the gender of characters is by no means a new thing in Shakespeare plays, but the friendship between Hamlet and Horatio in this showing is among the best. Hamlet and Horatio truly seem like friends who met in college, maybe studied at the library together a bit and went to programs or perhaps lived in the same residence hall. Maybe they were involved in similar co-curricular activities. Whatever it be, this friendship is incredible.
And of course Ty Boice’s Hamlet is evocative of all the things Hamlet should be. At some times, a mad frenzy of ill-marked speech while other times, over enunciating and coyly hiding behind a shroud of fear and concern. Boice really sells Hamlet as driven mad by the sudden loss of his father, a thing that would throw any sane human for a bit of a loop. This loss is punctuated by the occasional background footage of Young Hamlet with his father.
Overall, I would give this showing four out of five stars.
Hamlet shows through May 4th. Thursday through Saturday, tickets are $15 and Sunday is Pay-What-You-Can day. Post5 Theatre is located in Northeast Portland, about three blocks south of the NE 82nd Ave MAX stop.