Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Red Theater’s ‘Hamlet’ embarks on poignant emotional journey

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Photo Courtesy to Faith Decker
Hamlet explores numerous characters’ descent into madness and foreshadows their tragic ends.

With captivating actors, an intimate black-box stage and harmonizing design elements, the Red Theater’s “Hamlet,” directed by Wyatt Kent at the Edge Theater in Edgewater, offers audiences an emotionally immersive experience. The show opened on April 26 and will run for four weeks.

Before the play begins, Hamlet (Ashley Fox) wears headphones and sifts through a photo album on the raised in-the-round stage as reminiscent music plays. While the lights dim, Hamlet takes out a picture and folds it in half, foreshadowing his emotional outburst two hours into the play.

Fox’s portrayal of Hamlet’s grief held the audience’s attention throughout the three-hour play. Her skill at shifting between laughing madness, violent anger and cold indifference translated Hamlet’s difficult monologues into a potent story.

As the play develops, Fox’s outbursts and changes become more frequent, blurring the lines between Hamlet’s façade madness and how his mind is truly torn asunder by vengeance. Fox’s stunning performance often helped illustrate the more elusive Shakespearean language as understandable reactions.

Other characters also fall into madness throughout the play. Ophelia (Julia Rowley) begins full of youthful hope, but she slowly wilts as the main subject of Hamlet’s outbursts and abuses. In the first act, she steals her brother Laertes’ — portrayed by Ian Maryfield — hat in a playful jest before his voyage. Upon Laertes’ return, the act is repeated, but this time reflecting madness rather than joy.

Ophelia’s wit and charm fade into a ghostly beauty as she dances with her feet bare and her mind mad. Rowley beautifully shows Ophelia’s dying as a tragedy that saturates the entire play, allowing audiences to predict her poetic death.

Despite being a tragedy, the dynamic cast consistently elicits laughter from the audience, exploring every piece of wit within Shakespeare’s dialogue.

Polonius (Zach Bloomfield) is especially hilarious in his scene with Claudius (Robert Koon) and Gertrude (Kelly Levander), the trio well-matched in comedic impatience as they move through the scene’s slow pacing. Medill Prof. Craig Duff is an understudy for the role of Polonius and will perform on May 11.

Sound and lighting design also contribute to creating the different settings of the play, bringing audiences to the chilling guard-platform, the royal castle rooms and the eerie grave.

These elements are emphasized to complement the minimalist stage, with only two rows of seats on each side of the four-sided in-the-round stage. Audiences react both to actors and each other from across the stage, giving extra momentum to instances such as when the King’s ghost appears in a corner, gradually stalking closer.

Audiences are also brought into Hamlet’s staging of a play (within the play) which shows a murder executed the same way as Claudius murdered the king. Actors on benches in the aisle incorporate the audience as fellow observers of Hamlet’s plot — and of Claudius’ reactions.

The Red Theater’s “Hamlet” offers a philosophical immersion experience, with audiences seeing characters die after they descend into madness and an epic fencing fight (after three hours of mind games).

It tells the classic tale anew, injecting wit and laughter into tragedy and grief. “Hamlet” runs until May 19 at the Edge Theater.

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