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Review by Vince Mediaa

The Marin Shakespeare company returned this summer with “Hamlet,” now onstage at Dominican University’s Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, through July 16th. The Prince of Denmark brings back the award honored Marin Shakes Company, the outdoor venue shut down in 2019 during the covid years. Bay Area icon Jon Tracy is the new artistic director and has adapted this new powerful version of Hamlet combining an A list cast and production team. Tracy says “We put a lot of stock in the impact of Shakespeare’s works and the “mirror to nature” that they provide us. We champion these stories so that we might reflect the best and worst of the human condition.”

Tracy brings a brilliant modern toxic version of life in the Danish court. The creative team, some new to the Marin Shakes stage followed Tracy from his other projects and stage companies. The looming Marin forest that surrounds the MSC Meadow Amphitheater is the perfect setting for Nina Balls set design, that appears to be a grinder or a clock pushing the story into its maddness. This Hamlet has music and at times bright costumes designed by the inventive Miyuki Bierlein and Luisa Frasconi, with dangerous stylized Choreography by Bridgette Loriaux.

The setting is a modern recent college student Hamlet returning home to mourn the death of his father King Hamlet, who died two months earlier. The iconic speeches and lines from Shakes most quoted play are included with different timing and emphasis. “To be or not to be” is staged with two actors and it is stunning and takes on a different timing and reflection. The text is trimmed down for a cast of eight actors, with many characters merged with others. All the classic deaths happen differently resembling a Tarantino film.

The superb Nick Musleh as Prince Hamlet spends most of the play fighting his insanity and planning the death of his uncle and himself. Musleh is a younger Prince who fits this part as he wears through his madness and moves through the grinder in the court. Props created by Joy Gonzales include cell phones, beat boxes, pill jars, brilliant capes and sleek handguns. The swashbuckling sword fights directed by Dave Maier, Stevie DeMott, and Assistant Director Storm White are high end smooth blood baths.

The provoking désirée freda plays Ophelia, Hamlet’s faded love interest, she is dependent on meds and is a pill popping addict. Dressed in hip club clothes and drowning out her world with huge head phones. The blasting tech dance music that brings a perfect edge to the court.

The gripping Lady Zen is expressive as the Clown King, singing her lines that worked well as haunting songs. The music and sound design is also crafted by Zen and Ben Euphrat. Also playing the grave digger she opens the play removing a grave adding the quirky puppet play the court enjoys with Zen’s infectious stage presents and weary voice. The ideal Stevie DeMott keeps a gloomy deadpan as Hamlet’s friend Horatio, and she and the polished Rinabeth Apostol are playful as two college friends and informants Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

The distinguished Michael Torres is a wise, clever King Claudius. Torres is also the ghost of Hamlet’s father who is bossy and the perfect bully. The long moving table that grinds in a never ending circle that rests in the center of Ball’s set is the key to this royal court. The cast takes turns pushing the table as a huge hour hand or as if the cast is grinding a potion for life or death.

The entire cast is impressive and this two hour and forty minute tighter version of Hamlet moves well, and is very easy to follow and understand. Tracy has built in some humorous moments that are very effective. It is time to take a well deserved trip back to the MSC Meadow Amphitheater. Bring your own food and drinks or purchase the warm drinks in the park. It gets very breezy and cold some nights so dress in layers and enjoy this dark yet fascinating Hamlet. It is a MUST SEE.

Marin Shakespeare Company Presents


By William Shakespeare

Adapted and Directed by Jon Tracy

Runs through July 16

Forest Meadows Amphitheatre

at Dominican University of California, 890 Belle Ave., San Rafael.

Thurs-Sat, 7:30pm; Sun, 5pm. $15-$40. 415.388.5208.

THE CAST Rinabeth Apostol, Stevie DeMott, désirée freda, Bridgette Loriaux, Nick Musleh, Richard Pallaziol, Michael Torres, and Lady Zen.

ARTISTIC TEAM “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare, directed with lighting design by Jon Tracy, set design by Nina Ball, sound by Ben Euphrat & Lady Zen, costumes by Miyuki Bierlein & Luisa Frasconi, Choreographer Bridgette Loriaux *, Fight Captain Stevie DeMott, Fight Director Dave Maier, Assistant Director Storm White, Stage Manager Dawn Marie Kelley


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