A Shakespeare classic comes to life on Kenilworth Boulevard
By Jerome Hule
If the performance Sunday of the play "Hamlet" is any indication, Kenilworth residents will have a blast this year's season of "The Bard on the Boulevard."
The Bard on the Boulevard, a summer program of live entertainment, started last year, courtesy of the Kenilworth Public Library. It is now in its second year.
This year's repertoire offers four classic Shakespearean plays to be performed by the Hudson Shakespeare Company. The performance of "Hamlet", one of Shakespeare's most tragic and well-known plays, opened the season at the library Sunday.
The event, like the three others in coming summer months, was originally supposed to be performed in front of borough hall but had to be moved indoors due to inclement weather. Still about 20 residents defied the weather to gather and enjoy the entertainment.
Hamlet is a play about royal intrigue and treachery. In it, King Hamlet of Denmark is poisoned by his brother, Claudius, who ascends to the throne and marries his wife. Prince Hamlet, the star of the play, has his suspicions in the death of his father. Then his father's ghost appears to him and confirms that King Claudius had poisoned him. He also asks him to avenge his death but spare the Queen from remarrying the traitor.
To further confirm if King Claudius killed his father, Hamlet organizes a play in which a king is poisoned. King Claudius watches the play and becomes enraged by its message.
It is at this point that the story spins out in different directions, intertwining romance , intrigue and betrayal and ending in such massive royal self-destruction. Reading the play may be interesting, but watching it performed, spectator's said is more entertaining.
The performance opened with the scene in which the royal soldiers, friends of Prince Hamlet, first observed the appearance of the ghost resembling King Hamlet. Scared, the soldiers fall to the ground as the mute ghost passes by and walks quietly away. In his second appearance in the cast, the ghost beckons Prince Hamlet and leads him away to disclose the fact of his death.
With two hours, the 12-person cast of the Hudson Shakespeare was able to recreate the story in words and actions. The star of the play, Hamlet, the prince of Denmark, was portrayed by Rich Warren, a veteran of Shakespeare plays. He has to his credit such Shakespearean plays as "Henry V," "Valentines," "Othello," "Antony and Cleopatra," "The Merchant of Venice", "The Winter's Tale," "The Tempest," and others
Warren has also made TV appearances in "Sex and the City," "Forensic Files," and "Shoot-Don't Shoot."
Warren successfully portrayed Hamlet's transformation from a jolly young prince to a man disgruntled over the murder of his father and marriage of his mother to the man he suspects to have killed his father.
He firsts presents himself in love with Ophelia, daughter of Lord Chamberlain Polonius. But Ophelia's father and brother, Laertes, discouraged her from returning Hamlet's affections.
Later, Hamlet kills Polonius when he shows up from his eavesdropping position to answer Queen Gertrude's call for help. Fearing Hamlet might kill her, Gertrude call for help, prompting Polonius to rush in, but Hamlet stags him to death.
Ophelia's grief over the death of her father leads to her eventual death by drowning. Her brother Laertes, is told by King Claudius it was Hamlet who killed his father. The king and Laertes then join in conspiracy to kill Hamlet, with the king promising to poison Hamlet if he survives the match.
When Hamlet wins the match, the king offer him the poisoned wine, which he refuses. The queen ultimately ends up drinking the wine herself.
As she dies, Hamlet stabs the king and forces him to drink the poison. Hamlet and Laertes also die from wounds sustained in the fencing match.
The queen was played by Jessica Day, while Matthew Olsem played King Claudius. The cast combined traditional costume and modern dress with nobility appearing in traditional dresses.
Despite the limitations of space the cast was able to create seamless transitions from scene to scene. Good improvisation ensured that props were easily moved around.
The cast showed great skill in the delivery of dialogue, especially in the are archaic language common in Shakespeare's plays.
Jon Ciccarelli, director of the play, said his case is extremely competent, most of them on the very of becoming professionals.
"Our goal is to bring an enjoyable show, a show that people will like to see," he said.
Maria Moncada of Berkeley College in Paterson said, "They did an excellent job.
"I didn't know it would end this way," she remarked of the tragic end of the play Moncada attended the play as part of an international business project she is doing on Shakespeare.
The Hudson Shakespeare Company has been performing since 1992, when they performed mainly in Hudson County. They have also performed in New York and Connecticut.