Great Dane 

Reduxion Theatre opens its “Original Sins”-themed fourth season with a stripped-down, but impressively acted production of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

Transported from its original medieval setting to 1938 Denmark, Reduxion’s “Hamlet” still tells the tragic tale, without further alteration, of Prince Hamlet’s quest for revenge against his uncle Claudius for murdering his father and for ascending to the throne by marrying his mother, Queen Gertrude.

Instead of focusing on ways to tart up the play, director Erin Woods takes a decidedly bare-bones approach. With no sets and almost no lighting changes, she and her cast of seven able actors devote all their energy into the performances, with fairly stellar results.

The one exception to this subtractive approach is the addition of music by talented young composer Kyle Gossett, who serves as a one-man orchestra, playing several percussive instruments and the keyboard. While I feel that music could be a bit more present in the early part of Act 2, and that the opening song is a little too lighthearted, it is a welcome addition, providing additional texture.

Of the half-dozen actors I have seen perform the role of Hamlet, Tyler Woods is hands down the best. With a flawless command of the language, he delivers a natural, nuanced performance that conveys the text’s meaning with incredible clarity and ease, as if they’d sprung from his own mind. He nailed all of the most memorable lines, giving them necessary weight while never overplaying.

Robert Gallavan turns in equal performances. His Laertes is regal, giving us a glance at what Hamlet might have been like before his father died. As Guildenstern, he shares some dynamic scenes with Hamlet and Lindsey Ruta as Rosencrantz. One of two understudies who ended up in the main cast, Ruta makes a strong impression as both Rosencrantz and as Ophelia, tracking her decent into despair with heartbreaking conviction.

Angie Duke isn’t given a lot to do as Queen Gertrude until she’s confronted by Hamlet in Act 2, where she delivers a raw, real and vulnerable emotional performance on the receiving end of Hamlet’s unrelenting verbal assault. Playing both Claudius and Hamlet’s father, Shaun Kilburn is generally good, but rushes through the story of his murder, as told to his son by his spirit.

Aside from the occasional stumble, Leavell Javon Johnson has great stage presence and speaks with power, clarity and a lovely intonation, altering his delivery for different characters. As the other understudy joining the cast, Sam Bearer impressively tackles seven characters, but could employ more variety in his characterizations.

While serviceable, the costume design by Jessa Raye Court isn’t much, as Hamlet’s suit is ill-fitting. The sleeves hang low, making it seem as if the suit was grabbed off a rack rather than tailored for a prince.

Aside from a few small issues and modest production values, Reduxion has succeeded in staging a dynamic production of “Hamlet” that feels vital and relevant.

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Eric Webb

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