Shakespeare, Currier Hold Mirror Up to Vengeance
by Michael V. Rodriguez
Lush trees surround Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, offering shade. Birds sing and crows inch closer to the action. “Hamlet” intertwines with nature.
As Hamlet (flawless Nate Currier) wields an assault rifle, wearing plaid pajama bottoms. Even his off-mic lines from the front rows ring clear and resolute. Currier evokes a young Hamlet who knows too much for his own good.
Nate Currir draws us onto his side by appealing to pop culture sensibilities. He bends Shakespeare’s poetry to the tune of Willy Wonka’s “Pure Imagination,” keeping our ears open for kitschy references. And our hearts open to Hamlet’s inevitable revenge.
Nate’s father, dedicated Director Robert Currier, sculpts a vengeful Hamlet from his son’s subtle facial cues and outrageous body language. Together they reveal our capacity for vengeance.
Vengeance burns in us these days. Citizens and immigrants feel disenfranchised and tricked. With the dumbass in office, we feel Hamlet’s vengeance stinging in our gut. Currier’s Hamlet shows us the far-reaching repercussions of burning hatred. When Hamlet deals a double death by sword and poison to his corrupt uncle, the pain and cruelty on Nate Currier’s face exposes the joy and anguish of revenge. Nate plays a proud, sane citizen in a world of loons and crooks.
I love the “Play within the Play,” entitled “The Murder of Gonzago.” The Players enter from the back, shouting over our heads to hail their sweet Prince Hamlet. Hamlet greets them smiling, with a plot in mind to reveal his murderous uncle Claudius’ guilt.
Barry Kraft proves his mastery, redefining the word “stately.” Kraft succeeds as both amiable actor and forsaken King, ranging from vulnerable to powerful in a flash. Flowing seamlessly between Player and King, Kraft embodies Shakespeare’s critique of the temperamental, ambiguous nature of Power.
Rod Gnapp embodies Claudius’ emotions, perfectly. When Claudius watches a murderer pour poison into Gonzago’s ears, Gnapp’s startled eyes betray his guilty conscience. Hamlet’s Act Two conlcuding couplet rings prophetically: “The play’s the thing / Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.”
Steven Price rocks sniveling counselor Polonius, channeling Giuliani and Pence’s slimy subservience. Polonius licks Claudius’ boots. as we loathe his rambling. When Polonius is finally offed, we are relieved—but sad to say goodbye to Price.
When calculating Polonius gives “fatherly” advice to his daughter Ophelia (stunning Talia Friedenberg), he seems oddly lustful. Polonius’ son Laertes (lyrical Hunter McNair) speaks to his sister in a sexually charged tone—both meddling with Ophelia’s sexuality, awkwardly. With eyes wide open, they passionately describe sexual acts to Ophelia! Polonius’ family sex-talk gives me goosebumps.
Perpetually in shock, Queen Gertrude (starry-eyed Arwen Anderson) is helpless to console her son, Hamlet. Anderson’s vacant stare leaves us wondering if there’s anything left inside, but her sequin dress and lavender feather boa expose her vanity.
The entire court of Denmark dresses in the gaudiest purple and yellow frippery. Their style reeks of 80s disco. Only old King Hamlet’s Ghost wears elegant, silver royal attire.
Robert Currier calls “Hamlet” “the best play, by the best writer.” I will add—in the most magical theater, in the embrace of Nature. When Nate Currier delivers his “To be or not to be” soliloquy, my heart jumps a beat. Marin starlight illuminates this dark tragedy. Nature mingles with “Hamlet,” expressing Shakespeare on vengeance. The Curriers craft unique pleasures for all of us to enjoy.
“Hamlet” by William Shakespeare, directed by Robert Currier, by Marin Shakespeare Company, at Forest Meadows Ampitheatre, San Rafael, California, through Sunday, July 8, 2018. Info: marinshakespeare.org
Cast: Ariel Zuckerman, Robyn Grahn, Brennan Pickman-Thoon, Daniel Wallach, Rod Gnapp, Hunter Scott McNair, Steven Price, Nate Currier, Arwen Anderson, Talia Friedenberg, Barry Kraft, and Braedyn Youngberg.
Banner photo: Barry Kraft (Player King) & Nate Currier (Hamlet)