Moody Dane Goes on Killing Spree (Including Poetry) in Shakespeare Dallas' Hamlet

Theater Caps are bite-sized punch-packing capsule reviews by resident theater critic Elaine Liner. Use them as a reminder -- or a teaser, if you procrastinate -- of her full-length reviews in The Mixmaster's weekly sister.

If you're worried about hearing all of Shakespeare's timeless poetry in an outdoor production of Hamlet, don't.

Shakespeare Dallas' production, which moves this week to Addison Circle for a two-weekend run, is performed at maximum volume. Not only are the actors miked, they shout into them, yelling every syllable to high heaven.

Director Rene Moreno has delivered a histrionic, broadly acted staging of the tragedy, moving the action to post-WWII Denmark. The cast is dressed in 1940s threads, all shaded in blacks, reds and grays. Against the black castle background, it's a strain on the eyes just to see them.

SMU grad Cameron Cobb, who looks a bit like a young Orson Welles, plays the title role, stumbling into his first scene swigging from a whiskey flask. After that this Hamlet stays in a drunken rage, raving like a lunatic as he seeks revenge on the uncle who murdered his father and married his mother the queen before the funeral buffet was cold.

It's a performance that lacks the searing introspection the role needs for those classic soliloquies. It's all big gestures and loud declaiming. And in another odd bit of direction, the "To be or not to be" speech is upstaged by the presence of the slouchy Ophelia (Jenny Ledel), hanging around upstage in that black castle.

Two performances defy the crazy goings on around them and get some subtler moves in. Actors Chris Hury (who was a fine Cyrano at Shakes/Dallas this summer) and Alex Organ (so good in Second Thought's Red Light Winter a few months back) speak the speeches without the bullhorn volume and with real finesse. They're excellent as Laertes and Horatio, respectively. But sadly, the play isn't about them.

Hamlet continues through October 16 at Addison Circle Park, 4970 Addison Circle. Admission is $10 adults/$7 seniors and students. Children 12 and under are free. Seating opens at 7 p.m.; show begins at 8 p.m. More info at shakespearedallas.org.

For a subtler Hamlet, check out David "Dr. Who" Tennant, doing the soliloquy in this video:

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