photo: Carol Rosegg
A modern-dress production in which the Danish prince snacks on a bag of movie popcorn and Ophelia wears an ipod, Shakespeare Theatre Company's Hamlet has the interesting idea of emphasing the youth of the title character: it's Hamlet as tossle-haired, shirttail-showing, backpack-wearing adolescent. It has its moments, but in all it sounds a lot more fun on paper than it has turned out on stage, mainly because Jeffrey Carlson is asked to rage through the title role at fever pitch and there's not a lot of variety in or relief from what amounts to a three hour fifteen minute sobbing tantrum. I've liked Carlson in just about everything I have seen him in but I don't think he's right for this: he's too extreme to communicate an adolescent rebelliousness that we can relate to. Additionally, it's never clear in this production how the character's "mad" behavior differs from his norm: if that's part of the point, that adolescence is a kind of madness in itself, then it's ill-defined and doesn't come across the footlights. Good performances are turned in elsewhere: Robert Cuccioli and Janet Zarish, as Claudius and Gertrude respectively, are vibrant and strike some notes of newlywed carnality; Michelle Beck is a memorably emotional Ophelia and Kenajuan Bentley a credibly honor-driven Laertes, Ted van Griethuysen brings a welcome, comforting old-school polish as the Gravedigger. Even with so little to do as Horiatio, Pedro Pascal is natural and easy on the ears: he knows how to make Shakespeare sound effortless in his mouth.