By ROBERT DIGITALE
This Hamlet fellow in Sonoma State University’s new theatrical production is one mad dude: mad about murderous treachery and about the many “friends” who aren’t playing straight with him.
He’s also mad like a fox, appearing crazy in order to hide his plans for revenge. But as evil and death take their toll all around him, you have to wonder if a little madness also hasn’t begun seeping inside his brain.
Matt Lindberg is the mad young prince of Denmark in SSU’s “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare, now playing in a one-week production. On Lindberg the tragedy must rise or fall, and he gives a remarkable performance as a young man alone trying to uncover the truth surrounding the death of his father the King, and later moving forward to avenge the murder.
It’s an often-fiery display. Yes, he still delivers those loquacious soliloquies. But here their effect seems to stir the young man to a boil, steaming at himself and others. Many in the college audience gasped and buzzed when Hamlet violently threw down his supposed love Ophelia and told her to “get thee to a nunnery.” Similarly, he roughly restrained his mother in her bedchamber while confronting her about her motives in marrying her brother-in-law only weeks after her husband’s death.
However, this isn’t caveman Hamlet. Lindberg may kick and throw things as he laments where life has placed him. But his manners, his face and his delivery give us needed insight into his mind. We see him joyously greet friends one minute and the next pull back into veiled foolery once he realizes his pals are being used to spy on him by his enemy, his uncle Claudius, the new king.
Director Paul Draper’s production is set in the “recent present,” with modern costumes. Production highlights include the fog-laden scenes where the dead king’s ghost appear on the castle battlements in order to tell his son how Claudius poisoned him. Other treats are the puppeteers and gaily-festooned actors who present a mini play that Hamlet has revised to portray the poisoning of a leader and the taking of his wife – all to see whether Claudius shows any signs of guilt.
The other members of the cast ably help advance this story, especially Deanna Maher as Laertes, Régine Danaé as Ophelia and Connor Pratt as Claudius.
All in all, it’s a testimony that 400 years after his death, Shakespeare still has something to say to us about the human condition. And these young actors have the passion to interpret it for our times.
A tip of the hat to the rest of the cast: Ian Webb, Rosemarie Kingfisher, Sean Patten, Joe Ingalls, Joseph Grant, Lyla Elmassian, Katee Drysdale, Victoria Saitz, Reneé Hardin, Anna Leach, Ashlyn Kelley, Val Ruiz, Emily Rice, Emily Ortega, Natasha Potts, Tristan Atkinson, Maliyah Jones, Aliya Bacal Peterson and Jasmin Lewis.
The play runs through Sunday May 8. For times and tickets, click here.