Wednesday, April 11, 2012
REVIEW: Asolo Rep's 'Hamlet, Prince of Cuba' is highly entertaining but could've accomplished even more
Sex, violence, a complicated hero, a multi-faceted villain, a bit of humor and a tragic ending.
At its core, though, “Hamlet” is about that timeless theme of vengeance.
On this level the Asolo Repertory Theatre’s production, adapted and directed by the company’s producing artistic director Michael Edwards, works extremely well.
William Shakespeare’s masterpiece has been judiciously cut to two hours — about half the length of the original — giving it a greater sense of urgency without trading much in terms of character development.
The disappointment, though, is that not more is made of the late 19th-century Havana setting of this new but familiar work titled “Hamlet, Prince of Cuba.”
On a positive note, Frankie Alvarez delivers a fresh take on the character who must ask “to be or not to be,” playing him by turns mad and melancholy, funny and fierce as he attempts to avenge the death of his father.
Emilio Delgado, who has played Luis the Fix-It Shop owner on “Sesame Street” since 1971, is equally brilliant as King Claudius.
He’s the bad guy who killed his brother — Hamlet’s dad — to seize the throne and then married Hamlet’s mom Gertrude.
She’s played by the always impressive Mercedes Herrero, seen in last year’s Asolo Rep productions of “Boeing Boeing, “Deathtrap” and “La Bête”.
Gisela Chípe is wonderfully unhinged as the theater world’s most famous erotomaniac, Ophelia.
Meanwhile, first-time Asolo Rep guest artist Andhy Mendez does a winning job of selling the climatic sword fight and more as Laertes, the brother of Ophelia and son of Claudius’ chief counselor Polonius (Douglas Jones).
It’s a talented cast working under Edwards’ assured direction with his smartly trimmed script to create a truly must-see presentation of “Hamlet.”
But the play could’ve accomplished more, and really made a statement, by further exploring the Cuba connection.
For starters, Dane Laffrey’s set, a dilapidated wall with three industrial fans that appear broken, doesn’t give the audience much direction as to where the action takes place.
And Clint Ramos’ costumes, while uniformly handsome, could largely pass for attire worn by 19th century aristocrats from Cuba, Spain, England, the U.S. etc.
Most importantly, though, is that while Edwards notes in the program that “vengeance has also played a particularly destructive role in Cuba and in Cuban-American relations” we never see this manifest on stage.
In fact, the only reference to the Spanish-American War of 1898 is a rather jarring surprise appearance at the end of the play.
—Publicity photo by Scott Braun: Frankie J. Alvarez stars as Hamlet and Gisela Chípe.
Asolo Repertory Theatre produces world premiere of 'Hamlet, Prince of Cuba'
Details: Through May 6, Asolo Repertory’s Mertz Theatre, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Tickets: $27-$71. Information: 941-351-8000 or www.asolorep.org
Asolo Rep presents events leading up the Spanish performances of ‘Hamlet, Prince of Cuba’:
While the show is currently enjoying a run in English at Asolo Rep, it will have two performances in Spanish with English supertitles 8 p.m. May 3 at 8 p.m. and 2 p.m. May 5. The Spanish translation is by Pulitzer Prize-winner Nilo Cruz (“Anna in the Tropics”).
After concluding its run in Sarasota, the show will move to the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center in Miami where there will be both English and supertitled Spanish performances May 11-13.
Events ranging from pre-show reception to panel discussions, all leading up to the Spanish performances, will be held April 15, 20, 28 and May 1-5 from Sarasota to Tampa.
For more information on the events above please contact the Asolo Rep’s education and outreach director, Brian Hersh, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 941-351-9010 x3320.