Make the ghost real. Make Hamlet a genius and a killer at the same time. Make Ophelia’s insanity inevitable. Make Polonius wise. Or is the ghost an illusion through and through? Is Hamlet a privileged monster, a whiny misogynistic fencing enthusiast and creep who commits foul murder with impunity, writes blatantly offensive letters, and enjoys a good four-hour pacing session by himself around the halls at Elsinore? Is it Ophelia’s play, really? Is Polonius a clown?
To say that this Gift Theatre production, led by director Monty Cole, finds all the right answers to these questions assumes that they have right answers, which they don’t. Like “to be or not to be,” the only sure answer is an equivocation, another question. Daniel Kyri, who heads up a predominantly black cast, brings utter control over the language and a quality of hard-won majesty to the role of Hamlet. Kyri also has the ability to inflict the most profound hurt imaginable, as he demonstrates in Hamlet’s falling-out with Ophelia (Netta Walker), or when he viciously shanks Polonius (Robert Cornelius). In its sensitivity to the violent contradictory impulses within each scene, Kyri’s Hamlet is a triumph.
On a practical note, the entire cast could do with being twice as loud as they think they need to be. William Boles’s vivid set design includes a pane of transparent plastic at the apron’s edge, simulating a mirror. A fine illustration of the going aesthetic theory in Shakespeare’s time (“hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature,” Hamlet says), it muffles the sound something awful. v