THIS HAMLET IS AN ABBREVIATED MODERN DRESS CHAMBER PERFORMANCE THAT BRINGS THE BARD RIGHT TO YOUR SEAT
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Shakespeare’s Jacobean Drama of love and revenge, is now being staged in the Phoenix Theatre at San Francisco’s Native Sons Building through August 5th. Ninjaz of Drama Founder and Creative Director Rey Carolino has expertly woven a bare bones show with minimal set pieces, and simple lighting. He cast a strong ensemble of actors playing non-traditionally. Carolino stages a thoughtful butchering of the script by David Abad.
Carolino says anyone daring to stage this play may find themselves knee deep in a daunting but worthy labor of love. He adds “and if they were fortunate enough to be housed in a unique venue peopled with an excellent company of players, they would be surrounded by those of equal hearts and minds living on air filled with William Shakespeare’s epic verse.”
Carolino continues “As a San Francisco Bay Area theater director and producer, I'm proud and equally daunted to stage and bring to life one of the greatest plays ever written for the world stage, the tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare. The play with its poetry and philosophical insights owes to the memorable ancient Greek tragedies and comedies for its cultural impact; indeed Shakespeare's masterwork can be called the "Godfather" of classical theatre with its themes of family, power, and revenge, and whose popularity has yet to dwindle.
Rey Carolino orchestrates an ensemble of players that provide a new hue to one of the Bard’s finest works. Lijesh Krishnan is brilliant and ecstatic as the Prince of Denmark. He gives the boy a sense of vigor, yet steps back in between scenes to show the audience his true madness. When he speaks, “Now I’m alone. Oh, what a mean low-life I am!” after parting the annoying troupe of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern (played by the eloquent and hilarious duo of Myles Wynn & Alan Quismorio) Krishnan descends into the darkness of Hamlet’s mental state with such colors, especially in his encounters with the beauteous Ophelia, played by a rather stern and unruffled Emily Ludlow. She is subtle with her actions, then sings like a nightingale to a great pay-off towards her own demise.
Federico Edwards is marvelous as the lecherous villain, and quite frightening as the Ghost of Hamlet Senior. When Edwards speaks, “O, My Offense Is Rank,” Claudius is seen troubled and trialed through his journey towards getting the crown and the Queen, who is played by the not so grieving Kathryn Wood. She displays nothing but sheer happiness towards being the mother-aunt of the Prince of Denmark. Yet, she brings worry and concern for the already mad Hamlet.
As the Ghost, Edwards displays such eeriness and purposefulness to the point his face never moves, creating much more of a frightful experience. As the ever good Horatio, Krista White is minimal with her movements and physicality as if she is a spectator to all of this madness. She brings a sense of ability to help Hamlet overcome his mind, but nothing can be done in her hands.
Geoffery Colton as the adept doctrinaire of Polonius is exquisite. His ability to annoy the others with his life lessons is sheer comedy. Greg Gutting as the First Player is mirthful with a sense of willingness to play the part of Hamlet’s diabolical plan. While his Osric is handsome and jest. Arcady Darter is kindred yet fierce as the noble Laertes. Her loss for her sister and father is held with great restraint through her hatred for Hamlet. Jackie Haslam, Tim Foley, and Tracy Baxter as Courtier, Marcellus, Bernardo, and the other players in the players scene finely weave this ensemble together.
Paul Selinga’s lighting design for this production is to the point. He keeps it simple and focused so that the audience stays with the actors. His design transitions from dark blue and red shades which are greatly accompanied by the grim tunes of Geoffery Colton’s musical score, especially in the encounters with the ghost, where the audience sees a more shadowy Federico Edwards. Carolino’s set design is ample as well, creating a perfect thrust like blocking for the actors on stage, which feels cinematic and perfect for this play. Maria Graham’s costume design is fitting and well on the contemporary side. At one point, she has Hamlet dressed like Rambo-Gone-Wild, which was a treat. Kristen Matia’s fight choreography was concentrated and dynamic.
The Phoenix black box sixth floor stage is the perfect venue for this small intimate session with the Prince of Denmark. The actors are face front to their audience with their Shakespearean verses and the elements of insanity from this iconic revenge drama.
The Ninjaz’s Presents
Directed by Rey Carolino.
Play edited by David Abad.
Must close -August 5
414 Mason Street, Suite 601.
San Francisco 94102.
The Phoenix Theatre is in the historic Theatre District next to Union Square and close to the Powell St BART Station and SF Muni.
TICKETS: $20-25 at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/william-shakespeares-hamlet-tickets-33719566130
Photo’s by Rey Carolino
Lijesh Krishnan as Hamlet, Federico Edwards as Claudius, Kathryn Wood as Gerturude, Emily Ludlow as Ophelia, Krista White as Horatio, Geoffrey Colton as Polonius, along with Arcady Darter, Alan Quismorio, Myles Wynn, Greg Gutting, Jackie Haslam, Tim Foley, and Tracy Baxter
Directed-Production Design by: Rey Carolino. Play edited by David Abad.
Costumes by Maria Graham. Music by Geoffrey Colton.
Dances by Lisa Darter. Fights staged by Kristen Matia,. Graphic Art by Jennifer Boywer, Additional Graphics by Colin Dickau
Ninjaz of Drama is a San Francisco performing group that brings both classical and original works of theatre to the smaller stage.