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Indy Shakes inaugurates their new Riverside Park home with a brilliant 'Hamlet' Production

by Rita Kohn
July 28, 2019
Riverside Park
2420 E Riverside Dr.
Indianapolis, IN 46208
(317) 327-7171
Rita Kohn, member: Dance Critics Association, Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild
In its 11th year of providing FREE, professional Shakespeare performances Indianapolis Shakespeare Company presented their production of Hamlet, July 25 - August 3 at the company's new Riverside Park home.

Hamlet, through the lens of director Ryan Artzberger, is as kin to Indianapolis theatre-goers now as it was to Londoners 400-plus years ago, and has been to audience members anywhere in-between over the centuries. Artzberger cites his “entry point into the play” comes at Prince Hamlet’s stark realization— something is not right in the rational order of how a kingdom and a family and friendships are supposed to work in concert with each other; and when the weight of it hits Hamlet—why does it fall to him to ’set right a time out of joint’ Artzberger lets us know, it’s not a matter of us in the seats looking at stuff happening to a bunch of others; it’s a matter of each of us being Hamlet, demanding I take responsibility—that I be Hamlet; and that I weigh, under similar familial/national circumstances, what I would do ‘to set things right’ when the succession to leadership has been usurped.

As ponderously bothersome as he appears, Polonius in his farewell to Laertes demands equally of me a cogent life-choice tipping point: “This above: to thine own self be true…”

Intuitively, for Hamlet, self-truth is his decision-making fulcrum. When the path to secure balance/justice/truth is littered with unbalance, how can one person clean up the mess? How, why, does a singular event unhinge a person and lead to chaos?

Artzberger does not ‘dance around’ the harsh realities Hamlet has to face down or up; instead, this production could as easily be called a ballet as a play. It is how each character moves in relation to each other that had me watching every nuance of body language. In his multi-layered Prince Hamlet, Lorenzo Roberts is both lithe and wise in in the word’s dualities—he navigates every encounter with commanding suppleness, undergirded with a ‘knowing of being played upon.’ In his encounters with his Mother, with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, he brings us to consider this word’s historic meaning as meekness, bending to the will of others. In his encounter with the Ghost of his father-king, Prince Hamlet’s promise resonates throughout his body, his soul seemingly touching that of the spectre looming above him.

Coming at us in a contemporary setting, Lorenzo Roberts shows us a dynamic, conflicted son, a carefully groomed heir to the throne, a dedicated lover of Ophelia, and a boon friend to Horatio, whose level-headedness works to stabilize Hamlet’s all-too-often impulsive nature. Horatio is to Hamlet what Hamlet longs Ophelia to be—the balance to his ever-present ‘to be or…’ melancholic bent. Mehry Eslaminia builds a sixth dimension to Horatio as; a confident female comfortably wearing male-inspired clothing; a scholar confronting the ghost, lending legitimacy to its actuality; a diplomat guiding Hamlet as best possible to measured action; a nonjudgmental confidante; a citizen deeply imbued with honor and duty; and above all, a reliable witness to unbelievable events. We comprehend Hamlet’s qualities as the rightful king-heir through his rational conversations with Horatio. It is everyone else who trigger Hamlet’s penchant for impulsive, explosive action at this very moment when the depth of his grief pushes him to the opposite of how Ophelia and Laertes deal with their stunned reality of Polonius’ death.

The high point of holding our breath as we are pulled into how Hamlet is emotionally dancing around all this political/familial/friendship mayhem came with the absolutely brilliant decision to stage a jarring street dance number surrounding The Players. Whoa-there—is that Prince Hamlet killing ‘the moves’? The audience sprawled over the lawn hooted and hollered. We were totally in sync with Elizabethan England attendees, reacting without reservation. Credit goes to choreographer Mariel Greenlee.

Paring a four-hour script to two, Ryan Artzberger pulled to the surface the essential trajectory of decision-making during a time of grief. Is it all pre-destined? Could there have been a veering moment when inevitability could have been altered? This Hamlet engages with pointed directorial choices.

See full cast and location description here: www.indyshakes.com/2019hamlet
Indianapolis Shakespeare Company in 'Hamlet'.

Indianapolis Shakespeare Company in "Hamlet".

Photo © & courtesy of Courtney Remley


Indianapolis Shakespeare Company in 'Hamlet'.

Indianapolis Shakespeare Company in "Hamlet".

Photo © & courtesy of Courtney Remley


Indianapolis Shakespeare Company in 'Hamlet'.

Indianapolis Shakespeare Company in "Hamlet".

Photo © & courtesy of Courtney Remley


Indianapolis Shakespeare Company in 'Hamlet'.

Indianapolis Shakespeare Company in "Hamlet".

Photo © & courtesy of Courtney Remley


Indianapolis Shakespeare Company in 'Hamlet'.

Indianapolis Shakespeare Company in "Hamlet".

Photo © & courtesy of Courtney Remley

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