April 16, 2001
Actor Adrian Lester rivets audiences in 'Hamlet'
by Deborah Stone
Legendary British director Peter Brook brings his adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Tragedy of Hamlet" to the Mercer Arena for a two-week run.
The show, presented by Seattle Center in association with the Seattle Rep, Intiman, A Contemporary Theatre and The Empty Space Theatre, makes its North America premiere in Seattle before heading to New York and Chicago.
Brook's production of "Hamlet" is a compressed, rearranged distillation of Shakespeare's classic and features an international cast of eight talented actors.
The show is carefully crafted and employs a minimalist approach to Shakespeare's sprawling text, paring it to a two-and-a-half-hour production without intermission.
Brook's interpretation is unique in its simplicity, yet it manages to harness an amazing intensity, keeping the audience fully focused and on the edge of their seats for the duration of the show.
The ensemble of veteran actors performs on a large orange carpet, littered only with a few stools, cushions and throw rugs, and is accompanied by subtle musical sounds from a variety of percussion and string instruments (played by Toshi Tsuchitori).
British actor Adrian Lester makes a compelling and fascinating Hamlet, easily monopolizing the play with his charisma, grace and often surprising humor.
He is a gifted performer who is able to show the conflicted sides of a unique character, riveting the audience with his displays of frustration, rage, tenderness and sensitivity. Lester embodies Hamlet's soul and is able to show his development from a young prince bent on revenge to a man at peace with his fate.
Joining him is his faithful friend Horatio (Scott Handy), the ghost of his late father (Jeffery Kissoon), lovely and tragic Ophelia (Shantala Shivalingappa), his mother Queen Gertrude (Natasha Parry), old man Polonius (Bruce Myers, who also doubles as a spirited grave digger), Naseeruddin Shah as Rosencrantz, and Rohan Siva as Guildenstern and Laertes.
The difficulty with this show is in the venue. While the Mercer Arena is well suited for rock concerts, graduations and festivals, it is not the ideal setting for a play of this nature.
A temporary theater, built just for this show, uses stiff-backed, uncomfortable folding chairs that are tightly spaced, allowing little leg or body room.
In addition, the acoustics are poor in the upper back rows, as the actors' voices get swallowed up into the high ceilings, making them sound muffled.
A more intimate setting, such as at one of the sponsoring theaters, would be more conducive to performing such an intensely dramatic production.
"The Tragedy of Hamlet" runs through April 19.
Limited $20 rush seats and $10 floor seating are available half an hour before curtain.
For ticket information call (206) 443-2222.