Theatre Arts and Dance Department conquers Shakespeare

The play’s the thing, and the students of the Theater Arts and Dance Department outdid themselves yet again with their production of “Hamlet.” From the flawless set changes to the perfect memorization of the script, this play deserved more than six nights on the stage.

Audiences could tell Director Paul Draper had some fun with this show. The story of “Hamlet” is a tale as old as time and has been changed and played with by many directors over the years. But this cast took it and gave it new life, bringing a moody, dark and mysterious rendition of a Shakespeare classic.

For those who have been living under a rock, “Hamlet” is the story of a young prince whose world has been turned upside down. His father has been murdered, his mother has remarried her dead husband’s brother, his lover abandons him, and he’s constantly on the lookout for spies. The story follows his descent into madness, asking the famous question, “to be or not to be?”

Set in the present, the cast wore modern dress. Hamlet, played by Matt Lindberg, was perhaps the most modernly-dressed of all the cast, sporting combat boots, skinny jeans and a leather jacket.

The cast was made up of some of Sonoma State’s finest actors and actresses. Each of them took on their character in their own way, unique from actors in other productions.

Claudius, played by Connor Pratt, was the perfect amount of pompous and timid. Murdering your brother, marrying his wife and then trying to kill his son takes guts and Pratt pulled off the character well.

Gertrude, played by Lyla Elmassian, was completely oblivious to her new husband’s and son’s plans. Elmassian nailed Gertrude’s naivety while remaining a sophisticated queen.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, played by Anna Leach and Ashlyn Kelley, were a team similar to the likes of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. They had the crowd in stitches with their hilarious antics.

Polonius, played by Renee Hardin, was stern and proper while remaining motherly in her love for her onstage daughters. She was tough but ultimately succumbed to Hamlet’s dagger at the end of Act One.

Laertes and Ophelia, played by Deanna Maher and Regine Danae, are the closest of sisters. Maher and Danae brought this sisterly love to life in the realest way. Laertes’ anger when she sees her sister’s madness is so sincere, and Maher portrayed it perfectly.  

By far the most outlandish and unique performance was by Lindberg as Hamlet. He took this traditionally broody, sad character and turned him into a sarcastic bad-ass. As the play progresses, Hamlet’s anger grows, and so does his madness. Lindberg built up this madness slowly but surely, resulting in Hamlet’s ultimate triumph, killing his uncle just before his own untimely death. One could feel the passion Lindberg hadin his character.

The sets were simple, letting the audience’s mind fill in the blanks. The transition between rooms and outdoor spaces were flawless, especially with the use of fog machines.

Performing Shakespeare is no easy feat. This team took on the beast that is “Hamlet” and conquered it in a three-hour long production. The Sonoma State Theater Arts and Dance Department has yet to disappoint audiences, and “Hamlet” was the perfect way to end the 2015-2016 season.

Courtesy // David Papas

Sonoma State’s production of “Hamlet” played through Sunday night.