Hamlet. A story of family drama, murder, fighting lovers, brewing wars and ghosts–Hamlet is a Shakespeare that cannot be missed. And it is Theatre Cedar Rapid’s first Shakespeare production in 30 years, to boot! Two shows remain, Friday the 15th and Saturday the 16th. Catch it before it’s gone.

Many are likely familiar with Hamlet, have read the play in school, seen a public production, or know one of the modern-day film remakes. But every director who takes a look at Hamlet approaches it differently. Jason Alberty, director of the Hamlet production at Theatre Cedar Rapids chose to put on a show that is fast-paced. The plot is slimmed and cut to the point. The Fortinbras sub-plot, and the sections on wars and political dramas in other countries, are removed for a show that centers around our star Hamlet, his family, and his friends. These are the stories that will resonate with any audience, and the director was smart to focus the production in this way.

This directional focus plays up the true friendship between Hamlet and Horatio, and it shows a softer side of Hamlet toward Ophelia. It shows how he jokes and fights with his friend. It shows he really cares for people: Ophelia, his father, his mother.. but how deeply troubled he is by what’s happened before the show begun. This is an angle on Hamlet that I’ve always enjoyed–one thats focus is wrapped around this confused, fraught, emotional main character. It is a hard look into a very loyal young man who has just lost his father and is dealing with his mother. And Matthew James played a wonderful Hamlet.

Alberty’s directoral choices, focused the play smartly on the young characters of the production. Because he chose to focus on these relationships, it creates a play that will appeal to a modern-day viewing audience. Audiences of all generations and ages understand sibling bonds, best friends who don’t always agree, and dramatic teenage love sagas. And Hamlet has all of that in force.

In this way, Ophelia and Laertes got to have their fantastic brother-sister scene early on in the show (it’s moments like these that you always hope won’t get cut when someone is trying to put on a fast production of a lengthy play). And MC Cole who plays Ophelia is delightful and spunky when need be– only making Ophelia’s eventual heart-broken madness more stark and tragic when that time comes. The production and effects are well done in the whole show, but one of the most memorable moments in this performance is definitely the singing scene that belongs to Ophelia played by the terrifically casted Cole.

All in all, Hamlet is a classic story that needs no build-up, and the performances put on by the folks at TCR do not disappoint. It is entertaining, relevant and well-acted. See it before it’s gone!

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