By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
Running Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes with no intermission
It’s interesting to think that a play that is over 400 years old can still be relevant today but, most of The Great Bard’s stories are timeless and still quite relevant in the 21st century. Hamlet Lost/Found, Directed by Julie Lewis with Set and Lighting Design by Moe Conn, Costume Design by James Fasching, and Original Music Composition by Daniel Lewis is currently playing at CCBC Academic Theatre on the Catonsville campus is not only relevant, but is updated just enough to easily understand the story of guilt, betrayal, revenge, and unmitigated human nature.
In academic theatre, students are learning and teachers are teaching, but sometimes we forget how talented these students and teachers actually are. Walking into the Center for the Arts Theatre on the Catonsville campus of CCBC, I was treated to a well-thought out, well-designed set by Set Designer Moe Conn. The different levels kept the set interesting and the black and white and modern motif kept it simple, yet elegant. The surprising transition of the set, opening up for a larger stage, keeps the story moving and intriguing for the audience. Conn uses his space wisely and adds value to this updated version.
To go along with Set Design, Conn took on the responsibilities of Lighting Designer, as well, and his design is absolutely appropriate and sets the mood for each scene. In the adapted, more updated portion of the story, Conn’s lighting of the “night club” is authentic, fun, and just enough, adding to the story rather than making it a spectacle. Kudos to Conn for his work on Set Design and Lighting Design.
Costume Design by James Fasching is brilliant, matching the set with a black and white and modern style. His choices for each character is very appropriate and quite fashionable and the all of his actors seem very comfortable in their wardrobe. Since this is not a traditional mounting of this story, Fasching has managed a chic and elegant Costume Design that is well thought-out and fits nicely with the piece.
Music has always played a key role in Shakespearian productions and for this production, Daniel Lewis was charged with composing original pieces and he knocks it out of the park. His compositions are contemporary, fun, and complex, yet very appropriate for this updated version and quite enjoyable to hear. All of the pieces are placed nicely in the piece and add great value to this production.
Shakespeare can be challenging, even if one is familiar, so every now and then, a piece is updated for a contemporary audience and updating and adapting can be a little tricky, too. Director Julie Lewis, Tatiana Fish, and the ensemble, however, do a superb job with the adaptation of this piece. The first half of this production is presented with traditional text and the second half is performed with the adaptation. First and foremost, this careful adaptation makes it easier to understand the story and throws a bit of humor into this tragedy making it more accessible to a contemporary audience. Lewis also keeps her actors moving on stage giving the piece a nice tempo and flow. Her casting of these complex characters is very good and, at times, non traditional, making for a riveting production. Lewis clearly has a deep understanding of this timeless story and her vision is apparent, relating to current times and ideologies. Major kudos to Julie Lewis on a job well done.
Aside from the outstanding production aspect of this piece, the performances are also commendable and the ensemble is on point in telling this story. All of the members of the cast worked well together and had a great chemistry. Together, they created an entertaining, polished piece of which they should be proud.
A few honorable mentions go to Tirrell Bethel as the King Hamlet’s Ghost, Lloyd Ekpe as Claudius, Molly Prunty as Guildenstern, and Randi Seepersad as Rosencrantz. Bethel exudes just the correct amount of creepiness as he dictates the actions of his son from the dead while Ekpe plays the sly, cunning uncle and replacement of King Hamlet with the appropriate amount of sleaziness and guilt for his deplorable actions. Prunty and Seepersad work well together as Guildenstern and Rosencrantz, respectively, the hesitant spies and friends of Hamlet. The chemistry of these two actresses and the humor they express in the roles make them a joy to watch. Overall, the entire ensemble did a stellar job presenting this story.
A few standouts are Alajandro Mendez as Hamlet, Elizabeth Armour as Palonia (usually Palonius), Jake, Urtes as Horatio, and Ja’min Williams as Laertes.
Alajandro Mendez’s Hamlet is filled with emotion and tragedy and he seems to understand the inner turmoil and rage of his character. He is comfortable on stage and has a great presence making for a very good performance.
Elizabeth Armour is a very confident actress, portraying Palonia as the social climber she is but playing it with grace and dignity. She a character you love to hate which goes to show how accurate her performance is in this production.
As Horatio, Jake Urtes is certainly one of the highlights of this production. He’s very natural and tackles the Shakespearian text with ease and a comfortable rhythm. He’s easy to understand and he seems to grasp his character and plays him with the loyalty to Hamlet that is required. He’s confident and comfortable and gives a very strong, entertaining performance.
Another highlight is Ja’min Williams as Laretes (and an Actor) and he, too, is very comfortable and confident in this role and finds his rhythm easily. His portrayal of Laretes and an Actor is authentic and natural and he is a joy to watch. He moves with purpose and gives a powerful performance.
Final thought… as each year passes, Shakespeare can be a tough pill to swallow. However, CCBC Academic Theatre’s production of Hamlet Lost/Found gives you a half and half – half traditional text and half updated and modernized text making it much easier for a contemporary audience follow the tragic story. The adaptation is a win and if you are familiar with Shakespeare’s Hamlet, you will not be deterred and if you are unfamiliar, this production will give you a better understanding of this popular tragedy.
That’s what I though of Hamlet Lost/Found. What did you think? I’d love to hear it! Feel free to leave a comment!
Hamlet Lost/Found will play through November 7 at The Community College of Baltimore County, Catonsville Campus, Center for the Arts Theatre. For tickets, call the box office at 443-840- ARTS (2787) or purchase them online.