Reviews are in for HAMLET!

HAMLET CAST LIST Gregory Morales, DirectorYolanda Valdivia, Asst Director BARNARDO     Kelsey CarlisleHORATIO     Devin MayMARCELLUS     Liesl CruzGHOST/KING     Henry McDanielHAMLET     Anthony O’DonovanCORAMBIS     Steve ScottLAERTES  


Gregory Morales, Director
Yolanda Valdivia, Asst Director

BARNARDO     Kelsey Carlisle
HORATIO     Devin May
MARCELLUS     Liesl Cruz
GHOST/KING     Henry McDaniel
HAMLET     Anthony O’Donovan
CORAMBIS     Steve Scott
LAERTES     Aaron Hart
QUEEN     Mary Railing
OFELIA     Taylor Harmon
ROSSENCRAFT     Victoria Maya Ferrario
GILDERSTONE     Kristen Alesia
PLAYER/AMBASSADOR     Patricia Blanchfield


Monroe County Civic Theater delivers on its daunting mission

by Matthew Waterman, Bloomington Herald-Times, Jun 9 2014

In its 400-plus years of existence, Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” has remained the most iconic and frequently revived play in the world.

It has been the subject of dozens of films, hundreds of critical analyses and thousands of stage productions; in quantity of scholarship written on a work, “Hamlet” ranks second only to the Bible.

For an organization such as Monroe County Civic Theater to produce “Hamlet” — not to mention, an entirely original interpretation of “Hamlet” — is truly tackling the beast.

Monroe County Civic Theater is Bloomington’s only all-volunteer amateur community theater group, and this summer marks its 25th annual Shakespeare in the Park Festival.

The organization’s staging of “Hamlet” was only part of the fun; Monroe County Civic Theater also presented staged readings of Shakespeare’s other 38 plays throughout the week leading up to the performances. In civic theater tradition, “Hamlet” was performed on the outdoor stage of Waldron, Hill and Buskirk Park (formerly known as Third Street Park).

Gregory Morales directed this show, with assistant direction by Yolanda Valdivia. Morales dreamed up fresh ideas for this unconventional take on the script. This production of “Hamlet” was set inside a rehearsal for a production of — you guessed it — “Hamlet.” Actors changed costumes on stage, carried scripts at times and, when their scenes were done, took seats on the sidelines of the “rehearsal.” These elements may have confused audience members at first, but eventually cohered into a unique production concept.

Much of the show was blocked not on the stage, but on the grass area in front of it. Use of this space allowed flexibility in the movement and added visual interest to a production lacking the budget for an elaborate set design.

Another nontraditional element of this group’s approach to Hamlet was their use of the First Quarto text. This much shorter version of the script was published earlier than the more commonly performed Second Quarto and First Folio editions. Often known as the “Bad Quarto,” this rendering of Hamlet has been produced fewer than 50 times. Certain recognizable character names are different in this version. For example, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern become Rossencraft and Guilderstone.

Perhaps the evening’s strongest performance came from Steve Scott as Corambis (called Polonius in later editions). Through his convincing embodiment of a father in his dotage, Scott highlighted the humor, wit and beauty in Shakespeare’s language.

Other standout performances were given by Taylor Harmon as Ofelia (Ophelia in later editions), Mary Railing as the Queen and Liesl Cruz as Marcellus.

During Saturday night’s performance, actors were forced to deal with recurring feedback from the speaker. Sound quality is always a challenge when performing outdoors, and audibility did suffer when microphone failures occurred.

This rendition of “Hamlet” brought out moments of comic relief in the notoriously tragic play. At the beginning of the show, the ghost of Hamlet’s father (Bill Goveia) crossed the playing area while listening to his iPod. Later on, Phillip Addison provoked laughs with his purposefully dispirited portrayal of the Queen in the play-within-the-play.

Monroe County Civic Theater took on daunting missions for this year’s Shakespeare in the Park Festival, and the group certainly delivered on those missions.

“Hamlet” closed its run Sunday afternoon.

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