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Surely, producing one of William Shakespeare’s greatest works, indeed one which is called “the greatest play ever written” in many camps, is a vast undertaking. For a “community theatre” group to tackle the project, albeit a company such as First Folio Productions with it’s feet firmly planted in Shakespearean works, is doubly difficult. But director Glenn Dobbs most certainly has surrounded himself with a plethora of innovative craftsmen and designers, talented avocational actors, and dedicated producers to accomplish the wonder which is The Tragedy of Hamlet, currently being presented in a very limited run at Ben Davis High School.

This skillfully edited version of the play remains a true telling of the tale of Hamlet, the disillusioned prince who sees the death of his father King Hamlet lead to his uncle Claudius’ rise to the throne and his mother Gertrude’s marriage to the new king. A dynamic performance by Carey Shea as Hamlet leads the way in excellence. Shea nimbly portrays the many facets of the vengeful prince with a fine understanding of the man, his conflicts, and his thoughts and ideals. As the role of Hamlet is one which signifies a “top of the list” opportunity of accomplishment for an actor, Shea has show himself to be a more than capable practitioner.

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Carey Shea, left – as Hamlet, with Tom Weingartner, as Polonius in a scene from First Folio Productions’ “Hamlet”.

Matt Anderson is spot on as Claudius, anxiously dealing with his ill gotten position, caught between a restless demeanor and a false bluster of confidence. Ericka Barker’s uneasy Gertrude is confounded by all the changes around her – especially her son’s sudden madness, and his disdain for her.

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Tom Weingaten, left, as Polonius, Matt Anderson as Claudius, and Ericka Barker as Gertrude in a scene from First Folio Productions’ “Hamlet”.

There are many other solidly done portrayals, indicating director Dobbs’ deft and detailed handling of the cast. Tom Weingartner’s Polonius, John Mortell as Laertes and Benjamin Mathis’s Horatio all find high levels of achievement. The difficult role of Ophelia receives perhaps the most polished and awesome rendering. Devan Mathias’ emotional turn as the bewildered young noblewoman is devastatingly truthful and deep. Ms. Mathias totally immerses herself in her reactions to the puzzling treatment given her by Hamlet, as well as in her character’s madness after Polonius’ death, with a breathlessly complete performance. Additionally, the many supporting players do excellent work. Of particular note is Chris Burton as both the lively gravedigger and the Lead Player.

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Devan Mathias, left, as Ophelia and John Mortell as Laertes in a scene from First Folio Productions’ “Hamlet”.

 

Technical aspects of the show also deserve praise. Fred Margison’s set is beautiful and ideal for the necessary variety of settings. Lighting designer Donald Stikeleather adds a feel of drama and power. Costume design by Melody Burnett, Linda Schornhorst and Anne Gross is elegantly quirky in it’s bow to a steampunk theme and vigorous fight choreography by Scott Russell is amazingly realistic with a spontaneous feel.

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The ensemble celebrates the marriage of Claudius, center left, played by Matt Anderson and Gertrude, played by Ericka Barker in a scene from First Folio Productions’ “Hamlet”.

There is no way to describe this show other than as a complete triumph. All facets of it fall unerringly into place and offer the audience a thoughtful journey through this iconic tragedy. Unfortunately, this offering only runs two weekends – so hopefully you can soon make plans to see it. Do not delay! A production this good deserves support by Indy’s theatre-going community.

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Carey Shea , left, as Hamlet and John Mortell, as Laertes, duel in a scene from First Folio Productions’ “Hamlet”.

Hamlet will continue May 28th, 29th, June 3rd, 4th and 5th at the theatre at Ben Davis High School. Information about dates and times can be found on the internet here or by calling 317-988-7966.

  • – Photos by Joe Konz
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