Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe


New Mexico Shakespeare Festival
Review by Carole C. Sullivan

Also see Carole's review of The Cradle Will Rock

Augusta Allen-Jones and Sheridan K. Johnson
Photo by Jason Ponic
Kudos to the Vortex Theatre and the City of Albuquerque for supporting the New Mexico Shakespeare Festival for the second year at the NM Veterans Memorial outdoor amphitheatre. They did not produce in the intervening COVID-19 year but have come back strong with Hamlet and Twelfth Night in repertory.

Once again, Peter Shea Kierst is at the helm of the Festival and he is the director of Hamlet. He has assembled a talented cast for this consistently strong production. The vast amphitheatre stage is used more easily and effectively than in the first year of festival; the company moves comfortably throughout the space. Judicious cuts to the play make the running time of Shakespeare's longest play palatable for even a novice patron.

Sheridan K. Johnson is Hamlet. Interestingly, women have been playing this role for many years, most notably Sarah Bernhardt, whose 1900 production was captured on film. Ms. Johnson has the skills needed for this difficult and taxing role; she excels in her ability with the spoken word. Her diction is exemplary. She brings a frenetic energy to the Prince of Denmark peppered with quite a bit of humor. Although slight in stature, she is a deft physical actor and handles the fight scenes well. There were a few times when I found the pace of her delivery a bit too rushed. Overall, her Hamlet is confused and out of control, and this state builds throughout the play.

A strong supporting cast is led by Mark J. Richman as Claudius, Paul Ford as the Ghost and the Player King, and Marc Comstock as Polonius. These veteran actors handle their parts well. Augusta Allen-Jones is a regal Gertrude, and Caitlin Kelly is a lovely, befuddled, and pitiful Ophelia. The rest of the company is competent and convincing. I particularly liked Owen Danan Martin and Kainon Orion Bachtel as the Tweedledee/Tweedledum-like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

The physical aspects of the production are kept simple. The set's moveable pieces work well to suggest the various scenes, but why are they red and blue? This color choice stands out. Lighting works well as do the mics on the performers, a necessity in this space. The costumes are adequate for each character and there is minimal use of props.

This is a solid production of Hamlet well worth seeing. Outdoor, summer Shakespearian productions enhance the cultural life of a city. The NM Veterans outdoor amphitheatre is a stunning space that should be utilized more for theatrical events.

Hamlet runs through Sept 19, 2021, in rotation with Twelfth Night at the NM Veterans Memorial, 1100 Louisiana, SE, Albuquerque NM. Performances are Thursday-Sunday at 7:30 p.m. All performances are FREE. For information:

Directed by Peter Shea Kierst. Cast: Levi Gore, Stuart Neef, Owen Reid Callis, Paul Ford, Mark J. Richman, Sheridan K. Johnson, Nicholas Johnson, Marc Comstock, Augusta Allen-Jones, Caitlin Kelly, Owen Danan Martin, Kainon Orson Bachtel Caedmon Holland, Alexandra Avila, Graydon Clarke, Eddie Dethlefs, Neil Faulconbridge. Ensemble: Daniel Paul Anaya, Scott Bing, Chris Black, Rachel Foster, Hallie Harris, Margie Maes, Joel Miller, Megan Pribyl, and Michelle Garcia.