by Patrick Fuller ’21
When was the last time you went to a play? In a world dominated by cinema and other digital distractions, the beauty and complexity of live performance has taken a backseat to its digital competitors. Yet, in the John Bowab Studio Theatre in the Smith Center for the Arts at Providence College, the Department of Theatre, Dance, and Film played its part in preserving live production’s legacy by putting on an experimental version of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Whether one has read the play or not, the skill and tact of the actors eased the complexity of Shakespeare with genuine displays of emotion, guiding new Hamlet spectators through major plot points. According to the department’s box office website, the play begins when, “A king is murdered, and a son returns from school to bury his father and finds his mother newly married to his uncle.”
A ghost challenges the boy to avenge the crime that destroyed a family and stained a nation. The world’s greatest playwright weaves a stunning story of intrigue and passion in which young Hamlet confronts his destiny as the one “born to set it right.”
At the foundation, the theatre itself was an essential component of the play’s success. With a small, circular stage in the center, the Bowab Studio Theatre holds no more than 80 or so patrons at a time, guaranteeing a feeling of intimacy for each and every viewer, no matter where he or she is positioned.
Jillian Eddy, a member of Assistant Technical Director Trevor Elliot’s crew, brought characters and events to life in chalk on the four black walls enveloping the audience. However, these depictions did not just serve a passive role.
Throughout the play, actors would reference certain objects on the wall; Hamlet (Timothy Brown ’20) forced his troubled mother Queen Gertrude (Mireya Lopez ’19) to look upon the handsome face of his deceased father King Hamlet on the right wall and the villainous smile of his uncle, Claudius (Daniel Carroll ’18) on the left. Similarly, Claudius prayed to a cross drawn on the wall’s right corner.
From the setting established by these four black walls, the brilliance of actors, sound, and visuals shone forth. In moments of intense soliloquy, sound designer Paul Perry set the mood with subtly emotional music.
In other moments, the Providence College alum based in Chicago made the ghostly visage of King Hamlet (Daniel Carroll ’18) boom with a terrifying madness on center stage. Gunshots, thunder, and drums elevated the sensations of doom and death to a level of tangibility.
Furthermore, the innocent advice of murdered Polonius (Johnathan Coppe ’18) and the passionate love between Ophelia (Jennifer Dorn ’18) and young Hamlet encouraged the audience to form strong attachments. In doing so, all of the actors convinced the audience that the weight of guilt, the pain of love, and the grief of death were truly heavy in their hearts.
Watching young Hamlet’s melancholy descent into the abyss of madness, his grief over losing Ophelia, his vengeance in killing Claudius, his friendship with Horatio (Teddy Kiritsy ’18), the audience found themselves lost in the realm between story and reality.
The final scene of the play was a sword fight between Ophelia’s brother, Laertes (AJ Roskam ’18), and young Hamlet choreographed by Jim Beauregard, associate professor of theatre and dance at Dean College. By far, it was the most interactive part of the performance.
There are still four chances to see Hamlet, with performances Feb. 8 through 11. Due to the small size of the theater, tickets are limited and can be purchased at the Box Office in the Smith Center, online, or by phone (401-865-2218).